Poisoning the King

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by Katherine Gotthardt, M.Ed.

Let’s talk about what happens when you’re motivated by anger.

One day, a king invited his enemy to a banquet at his castle. “Let’s make peace,” he said. “Come and celebrate my eldest son’s birthday with us.”

His enemy agreed, not knowing if the king truly had intentions of making peace, but he figured it would be worth the try.

In actuality, the king intended to poison his enemy at the banquet and show his young son how enemies were to be dealt with.

As they sat at the table, the king poured drinks himself and directed the servants to pass them around in such a way that his enemy received the poisoned drink. When it came time to toast, the enemy stood up, raised his goblet and said, “A toast – to our newfound peace and to this boy who will be a man someday. Boy, give me your goblet. Let us drink from the same brew your father has poured for me. We will share our drinks just as our kingdoms will share peace.”

The father, horrified, stood and said, “No. Share your drink with me instead, as the boy has not been part of our feud. Come, I insist.”

“Noble king,” said the enemy, “what a grand idea. I shall instead share it with both, to ensure peace now and for future generations.”

The enemy then poured some of his poisoned drink into the boy’s cup and the king’s cup.

“At toast to peace!” cried the enemy, raising his goblet and smiling.

“To peace!” shouted the guests.

And that’s where the story ends. You see, it doesn’t matter whether the king or the boy or the enemy drank the poisoned drink. If they didn’t all drink together, the enemy would become suspicious and remain untrusting, forever inhibiting true peace. If the king drank and died, the kingdom would fall into ruin. If the king said nothing and just pretended to drink, at the very least, his son would die. And if he admitted to poisoning the drink, war would surely ensue.

That’s what anger does. While it might poison your enemy (real or imagined), it also poisons those you love and yourself. While you might not drop dead at a banquet table, you most certainly cannot live your best life if your motivations are rooted in anger.

I once heard that anger is a secondary emotion, the result of combined, deeper emotions like fear mixed with hurt or hurt mixed with sadness. Anger is a manifestation of those emotions and the situations that caused them. Anger is a demonstration that whatever created the initial emotions has not been resolved.

In most instances, I’ve found this to be true. I’ve also found it to be true that if we nurture our anger and use it as motivation, that motivation can be powerful. But anger, by definition, is a negative. The Oxford dictionary says anger is “a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility.” Unless anger is addressed at its base level, the level of those underlying combinations of emotions, it remains a destructive force.

So how do you ensure anger doesn’t kill you and those around you? Writer and community leader Cindy Brookshire has a system. She says, “Resentment comes from something you think you didn’t get in the past. Anger comes from something you think you’re not getting now. Fear come from something you think you’re not going to get in the future. Deal with your feelings.” She suggests doing this:

  1. Write down your feelings.
  2. Deal with them, even if you need help from someone else.
  3. Write down the things that make you feel angry.
  4. Burn the paper in something contained, like a fire pit.
  5. Whatever issues make you angry, perform one positive action each day to resolve those issues.

Once you do this and anger is no longer in the mix, you’ll discover your motivations are a lot less muddy and you can get on with your life. You’ll become happier, as will those around you. And as a result, you’ll become inspired to continue that upward momentum towards the positive and reaching your goals. New doors will open, revelations will unfold and you will find yourself evolving.

I hand

a goblet of poison

to my grey enemy,

his fingers quietly closing

around the stone base,

touching my own.

How the chill runs through.

            “No, you take the first sip.”

And I, foolish,

            raise it to my lips,

            pretend to drink and swallow.           

“More,” says my enemy.

            “You’ve not had enough.

            Pour it in like you mean it.

            I’m sure you can get a refill.

Am I right?”

 Until next time,


This article is part of a series taken from my book, Get Happy, Dammit: Staying Inspired and Motivated in an Often-Unhappy World. Copyright 2020, All Rights Reserved. Learn more at www.KatherineGotthardt.com.

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