See Self As :Lion or Sheep

Do You See Your Identity As a Lion or As a Sheep?

by Kalinda Rose Stevenson

Perspectives On Self-Identity Definitions

It is better to be a lion for a day than a sheep all your life.
Elizabeth Kenny
Would you rather be a lion or a sheep? Before you answer, consider the self-identity definitions of lions and sheep.
Elizabeth-Kenny-Quote-on Lion

Who Wants to Be a Sheep?

Sheep have been given a bad reputation. We all know that being called "a sheep" is not a compliment. In a society as competitive as ours, being defined as a sheep is an insult. We even have a derisive name for it: "sheeple." Sheeple follow the herd. Unable to act independently. Willing to follow each other over a cliff. Cowards because they run away from the threat of being eaten alive by a predator rather than standing up for themselves.

Being a sheep is for losers, except in churches where the members are defined by sheep language. Then, the people are the sheep in the flock. The pastors, priests, and ministers are the "shepherds." They lead the sheep and try to bring lost sheep back into the sheepfold. In such cases, identity is defined by being "good sheep," "black sheep," "lost sheep," or "shepherds," A shepherd's responsibility is to take care of the good sheep in the flock, correct the black sheep, and bring back the lost sheep.

Would You Rather Be a Lion or a Sheep?

Consider Sister Elizabeth Kenny's assertion about lions and sheep. In World War I, she volunteered to serve as a nurse and earned the title "Sister" in the Australian Army Nurse Corps. Her courage on dangerous missions during the war was demonstrated in these words:

It is better to be a lion for a day than a sheep all your life.

Why do we admire lions and demean sheep? Lions are powerful creatures. They are predators that kill other creatures for food. In contrast, sheep are satisfied to eat grass and lie on the ground chewing their cuds, harming no one.

Think about that. Sheep harm no one. They aren't stupid. They have the good sense to run away from what frightens them. They are gregarious. They follow each other. They welcome other sheep although they want enough space to live without being crowded. And yes, they will follow other sheep over the cliff. (Take a look at  An Introduction to Sheep Behavior by Richard Cobb to have a more positive opinion about the admirable qualities of sheep.)

Compare sheep to the people who do cause harm in our world. These people are definitely not sheeple.

Consider the "self-made" millionaires and billionaires whose greed impoverishes other people who want only to live their lives comfortably and peacefully.

What about the warmongers? They aren't sheeple either. They are the ones who stridently strut around urging war but have no intention of actually fighting the war themselves. They send the "sheeple" to fight for them.

Think of the old western movies. The good guy and the bad guy have a shootout on the street. The bystanders—or "sheeple"—if you want to call them that, have the good sense to get out of the way.

How many innocent people die because of tough guy predator "lions" who will kill to get what they want?

Perspectives On Being Sheep

As a nurse, Sister Kenney's war experience and her courage in dangerous situations, including her postwar work in developing new treatment for poliomyelitis, are the foundation for her statement about lions and sheep. However, she was bold and brave but she was definitely not a predator. From a different perspective, she had more of the characteristics of sheep than lions. Consider what Jon Katz has to say about sheep.

There is something noble about the sheep. They are stoics, defenseless but accepting creatures, they harm no other animals and treat one another with dignity. They have walked with humans for many thousands of years. I'm not sure it's better to be a lion for a day than a sheep all your life.

[Original Post August 10, 2016]

Elizabeth Kenny was an Australian who served as a nurse in World War I. She earned the title "Sister" as a senior nurse. Healing Warrior is a story about her courage during the war.

Her courage continued in the United States after the war in her campaign for effective treatment of polio. Although polio used to be a devastating illness, we live in an era when polio is now a forgotten disease. Sister Kenny is a significant reason why we no longer live in fear of polio epidemics that left people paralyzed for life. Find out more in Polio Wars: Sister Kenny and the Golden Age of American Medicine.

What are your thoughts about your self-identity? Would you rather be a lion or a sheep? Please leave a comment below. I look forward to hearing from you.

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