A variation on the fishing proverb

There’s a proverb, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

But what do you do if the man doesn’t want to learn? Or what if he just won’t do it? You can try a few times to show him, then explain and harp on him about its importance, but you can’t keep catching him fish everyday without sacrificing your own needs and opportunities.

Although it’s uncomfortable, what else can one do but let him starve so he will realize the importance of feeding himself?

He may say you are unloving because you are unwilling to bring him fish any longer, but is that true? He may cry and wail about his hunger to others, and how he is starving because he is despised. And those others may also feed him, and try demonstrating how to fish. But others similarly can’t go on indefinitely.

And eventually the day arrives where everybody has realized his hunger is his own fault, and all watch in pain as he either starves, or finally is forced to take responsibility and start feeding himself.


I find this parable describes how I’m separating friendships worth keeping and friendships that are better to let go. I still feel bad cutting someone loose, but I can’t be someone’s permanent emotional crutch without it imposing on my happiness either. For both of us to grow, I need to let them starve.

We all have our bad days, and I try to be there for friends going through a hard time. If a friend broke an arm, I’d do what I could to supply them fish until their arm was healed. But at some point, our happiness is our own fault, not something others have to provide us.