Love and Relationships

Letting The Hens Be

Das Huhn
A farmer brought his brother to see the psychiatrist. “My brother,” he explained, “thinks he’s a hen.”

“Really,” said the psychiatrist, “and how long has he been thinking on those lines?”

“For about four months,” replied the farmer.

“And you did nothing about it?”

“No, Doctor.”

“That’s too bad. Why in the name of all that’s reasonable, didn’t you bring him to see me sooner?”

‘Well, to tell you the truth, Doctor, we needed the eggs.”

~ Reader’s Digest

While this is a hilarious story, I wonder if you can think of another way of looking at it?

Doesn’t this happen often in relationships where we tolerate the behavior of another, even if it is wrong, because in some perverse way it meets our needs.

I’ve been guilty of letting it happen in my own life some years back. I see it time and again in the lives of other people. The mother who lets her son be abusive to his wife, because it makes her feel that she’s the most important person in his life. A father who silently applauds his young child who talks back to her mother, because he doesn’t have the courage to confront his wife. An employee who sees her boss being unjust to a co-worker, but doesn’t speak up because if the co-worker quits, she’ll get that promotion. The ‘eggs’ in these examples are obvious.

But what happens in the case where the bad behavior of the other causes us pain. Why do people tolerate it? Why can’t they stand up and tell that person to stop? And when the person doesn’t pay heed and continues to hurt them, why do they still stay in that relationship?

What do you think the reason for this is? Have you had an experience of tolerating ‘hens’ in your life? What did you do about it? 

I’d love to hear from you.


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An inspirational writer, a creativity and writing trainer/coach, I write about life, gratitude, healing, wellness, relationships at Everyday Gyaan. I offer training/coaching to anyone looking to explore their creativity and heal through writing via The Frangipani Creative, located in Secunderabad, India. You can also find me on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Sign up for my weekly newsletter, Bytes of Gyaan, on Substack.

78 Comments on “Letting The Hens Be

  1. Terrific reflection here, Corinne!  And, yes, I have had my share of “hens” in my life.  Learned the hard way how to remove myself from harmful or unhealthy situations.   Hopefully, I no longer have any egg on my face!
    Blessings to you!

  2. Nice post Corinne…I don’t know whether we can call them ‘eggs’ but, sometimes we let things be so as to avoid conflicts.  When we reach the threshold of our limit to tolerate, we either break away from that relationship or if the relationship is too important, we will start putting up with it.

  3. Great post Corinne! It seems like this can be a very passive aggressive approach…like with the father enjoying his child yelling at his wife because he can’t confront and express his own feelings towards her with her. I’ve definitely come across my fair share of hens, have probably been one myself a time or two. I think confronting the situation is essential in overcoming it…or just altogether moving on from one’s hen.

    1. Passive aggression can be more harmful than out and out aggression, I think @facebook-1285338429:disqus ..I can’t imagine you being a hen though 🙂  Yes, we’ve got to let the hens go, as hard as that can be.

  4. So interesting..and so well put across. Just helped me to put what is happening with me and relationships into perspective….would also add the the eggs needn’t always be to materialistic it could also be taught to us over the years a certain conditioning …that we have to put up with weather or not….But am certain am on my journey to -words not tolerating . Thank you….

    1. You are right @5817e603e180998e7dc64f597c1d0747:disqus  – our conditioning does come in the way at times. But I think we’ve got to choose to be nice to ourselves. Thanks for stopping by to comment ♥

  5. It takes insight and communication skills to deal with people who cause pain to us or others. Too often people speak up in anger, after they have reached the limit of their tolerance. Words spoken in anger are always less effective than words spoken in a calm manner. Good post Corinne.

  6. Folks tolerate abuse to others because it’s not being directed at them thus they allow it to continue.  I’ve seen it many times in all aspects of my life including my own family but often others are not in a position to do anything about it. These days I try to limit my exposure to hens and surround myself with positive people. Funny story 🙂

    1. Yes, we can be very selfish like that @178ad3cd67e63f663d28adb3356929c2:disqus . I’m glad you’re taking ‘preventive measures’. I love this story too…perhaps I spoiled it with the connection I made?:)

  7. Oh my goodness I love this post.  I’ll be writing about this very soon and I will give you the credit for being the inspiration!!  Amazing thoughts, my dear! <3

  8. This is a great post Corinne! Loved the story and so very true. This happens so often…such a sad situation to find yourself in. Is there an easy answer?

  9. A very insightful post, Corinne. I still deal with a lot of hens. I tried speaking up a couple of times, however, I think the hen does not understand human language. :-p I’ve been, and maybe I still am, a hen in some people’s lives, too.

  10. Such an interesting post Corinne.  So true, there can be secondary gains by being silent in the face of abuse.  Definitely, I’ve seen it.  We may have all done it to some degree.  Hope we all grow to a level of awareness and integrity to avoid this in our lives.  

    Appreciate this story and the lesson you give from it.  

    Many blessings.   

  11. This is so very true. I too am guilty of it & know it happens with people in my life as well. Same holds true with me sometimes for people I shouldn’t be friends with because they are too negative for me liking, but I still end up spending a lot of time with them because it is inconvenient not too, & I want to avoid being branded as a disagreeable person.
    I think it is truly wonderful that you can see a funny anecdote like that in Reader’s Digest & find a meaningful life lesson in it.

  12. Wow you just hit home here…….for 17 years of my 21 year marriage my husband physically beat me…and I stayed for the beatings over and over again…….no one ever knew….from my mold as a child being threatened if I told they would kill my mommy….is where my fear began….I was scared to death if I did anything ..or told that he would kill me or my children…..so I never said a word..i never even thought I would be believed…it’s pure fear that keeps you from standing up and saying anything… you just stay and take it.. you deserve it after all……As always…XOXOXO 

  13. Oooo… I’ve had a few ‘hens’ and and egg on my face a time or two.

    I guess, unless, one lives in a vacuum, we are going to experience harm and hurt; hopefully, I am in a better place physically, spiritually and mentally so that I can recognize when it is happening. Its the times when it happens quietly. Today, I have enough self care not to allow others to cross ‘MY’ set of boundaries.

    I’ve also been the hen… I am much more careful not to romance blame or justification, which for me is the gateway to ‘hen’ like behavior.

    Great topic… very thought provoking. I love Readers Digest!

    1. We do have to set our boundaries and be aware that we are not infringing on other people’s boundaries too, Amy. I think it’s a constant process of learning…and we all go through phases of being tiny hens or egg-eaters… 😉

  14. Hi, Corinne! ~

    One trend I think I’m noticing in some of the comments suggests more a ‘getting rid of’ the crazy brother who thinks he’s a chicken (or fill-in-the-blank-crazy-person…) which is a fascinating story, also, but different from the Readers Digest Story.  

    The story presented here is about whether to encourage someone to get well or not, rather than to get rid of them or not.  I don’t think this is mere nitpickiness on my part — your original examples were totally in line with the moral of the story.

    Personally, I believe the number one thing I can do to encourage excellent mental & emotional health being demonstrated by the people around me is to expect no less of myself.  Whenever I let myself believe there’s something I lack which I need from someone else (‘eggs’, for example) then I’m in danger of turning a blind eye to their weaknesses in the spirit of reciprocity.   

    When I’m fully present and empowered in this moment, crazy people who think they’re chickens can’t share my personal space for very long — it’s too uncomfortable for everyone concerned. 

    Love this post — sharing at https://www.facebook.com/DangerousLinda  

    Thanks!  XOXO 

    1. Linda – I should have been more explicit when I said ‘get rid of the hens’. It doesn’t necessarily mean that we should not have anything to do with them any more. However, there are certain situations where one must leave completely. I’m often afraid that people often stay on in abusive relationships because they feel that it is the Christian thing to do – tolerate and pray for change. Or because of fear and low self-worth.

      What you say is absolutely true. It is only when we are aware of our own mental, emotional and spiritual state that we will be conscious of times when we are ‘collecting eggs’. We owe it to the people we love, live and work with to  honestly and in a loving manner let them know when we feel that they are not doing what’s right.

      And again as you said and in my own experience when we are empowered, the chicken people leave quietly or revert to being human. 🙂
      Thanks for your thoughts and for sharing ♥

  15. Fabulous post.  I think this is a very complicated question.  All too often there is knowledge that needs to be shared and we don’t do it because we gain from the dysfunctional relationship, it is true.  I think it is also true that sometimes we don’t share because we are afraid we will lose a relationship or that we will damage a relationship (not realizing that doing nothing damages it just as much) but in a different way.  Confronting a problem is a hard challenge for some of us… we’d rather pretend it doesn’t exist.  

  16. Ah dear sweet Corinne, this opens a huge can of worms for me and there is not enough space to verbalize what I feel.  In nearly every circumstance though, in my experience at least, it has been fear of one thing or another that inhibits us into being victims of emotional and physical abuse. I love you but that  is about all I can say on the matter without getting very emotional. This is an excellent post and once again I will be contemplating on your words. <3<3<3

  17. Hello Corinne.
    In answering the question you posed at the end…I think it all boils down to fear and lack of self worth. People believe they can’t do any better, so they stay hoping things will change tomorrow…sadly, things only get worse. I am the kind of person who likes peace & serenity in my life, when I feel like that is being threatened, I usually distance myself from the cause.
    Very thought-provoking post.
    Thanks for sharing.

  18. What an interesting and thought provoking take on a familiar joke!  The person I immediately thought of was someone at my former work place who caused quite a bit of trouble in some areas, but was tolerated because of his expertise in others.  No one ever called him out about his bad behavior.  One day he was very rude to me.  I didn’t say anything in front of others, but later, when I could speak to him privately, I told him that I was offended by his behavior.  I was going to let it drop, but he got very irate and tried to get me fired!  He wasn’t successful, and from then on he was very polite to me.  Alas, still not so much to others.

    Great post.  The hens and eggs concept has many facets to it.  I’m going to give this some more thought. 

  19. Great analogy and this can be a really tough thing to acknowledge.  Having awareness, purpose and compassion I find to be useful tools, it’s  a bit like the expression “between a rock and a hard place” where neither of the options is ideal, but once acts with full consciousness and without need to justify that to anyone except those who might be affected by our decisions.  Awesome post and wonderful responses.

  20. That was amazing! Ya, that was me about 8 or 9 years ago. Why I stayed as long as I did ? It was all I knew. It was a verbal abusive relationship and I coped with it because it was how I was raised. My mother was also abusive to me, so I kept the cycle going because that was life??? So I thought. I left because I felt I deserved much more. The blessing is: I’m receiving it every day. Water a beautiful flower and watch it grow.

      1.  While the photo of the Rhode Island Red is lovely, your words and thoughts are the color and spark to this post. I understand how fundamentally detrimental it can be to allow a person to act like a Hen because you need the eggs in your life – at the same time, there are times in our lives when we don’t have the luxury of choosing what is best, we must simply choose what is a lesser evil. Thanks for making me think, Corinne!

  21. Corinne, Tolerating the hens becomes second nature to people who don’t like confrontations. It’s not the right thing to do but it’s easier to do,  and less threatening to some. It would be nice if we all could tell the hens off, some of us do, most of us can’t. Enjoyed reading your thought-provoking awesome post.

  22. I have for sometime now just to give my mom some peace in the house.  We know that silence wouldn’t  make the person grow but we wouldn’t wish my mom to palpitate in between.

    Most of the time, I just choose to be silent on many situations,  letting the hens be. It’s time to work out on some things to make them a bit better 🙂 Thanks for the reflection…

    1. Thank you for sharing so authentically as usual, @melissatandoc:disqus . I’ve experienced people using their illness as a way to get what they want. That need not be the case with your mom of course. Sometimes, I too choose silence in some circumstances. However, when I feel that my feelings or that of another are being ignored, then I cannot be silent.

  23. Hi Corinne, when I was a child I hat a big fat hen, or should I say rooster, in my life. Speaking up was too frightening. Now that I’m an adult I stand up for myself and others. I guess that rooster taught me more then I thought.
    Great post my dear.
    Hugs!!

    1. I’m glad that with adulthood came the ability to stand up for yourself, Leah. Sadly, that’s not always the case with people. Old patterns of childhood come to haunt them in their adult years. I like the positive way you view the rooster ♥

  24. Great article, unfortunately I don’t think there is a single easy answer…there are many reasons for human behavior. We can never control what another does only our reaction to it and that also means to walk away or ignore it. 

  25. It’s the ‘eggs’ that keep us around the people that we know bring us down.  We have to see the FULL picture for all our relationships and have the courage to tell the whole truth about them.

  26. Great question…I find that when I’m happy, I only want and encourage others to be happy. But if I’m in a funk, then I have the destructive impulse to also surround myself with unhappiness and like to commiserate with the miserable. So perhaps the answer is work on myself first, and then be genuinely happy for others trying to escape their ‘hens.’

  27. Ah yes, “Hens” as it were do tend to be present in life from time to time.  I have found that for me and my life, the best thing I can do is to try to remove myself from the hen house so that I don’t get egg in my face.  It is beyond me why others allow such behavior to continue or to stay in a relationship that is obviously negative and damaging…but alas, people do.  It is often difficult to understand the inner workings of peoples minds.  Great post and absolutely love the deep reflection. ~Hugs, xo

  28. I think we let these things happen only because we learned this as young kids, because everybody does. The important thing is to tell right away people when we don’t agree or when it hurts us.

  29. Very thought provoking! I think has happened to ALL of us at some point in our lives. As we grow spiritually we are leas likely to be willing to accept the eggs from the bad hens! We hope. Bc we know that the truly valuable eggs are those that come from within us and that we create.

  30. I heard this as a Woody Allen joke explaining why it is that, despite all the bad love affairs and painful ended relationships, we allow ourselves to fall in love and trust one another over and over again: we all need the eggs

  31. I grew up in a dysfunctional family, I worked many years in child protection, these issues are real. I work with women everyday who are struggling with abuse and letting it rob them of their power. Great post.

  32. Corinnne what an engaging interactive blog you have! The last time I tried it didn’t load, was probably just my browser. Well done!

  33. Hillarious story but oh such a valuable lesson. The word tolerance comes to mind…tolerance that avoids conflict rather than accpets truth. Not sure if that makes sense but I think we let these hens hang around most often out of fear of what conflict might arise. Just a thought…. 

  34. Hmmm… you’ve got me thinking now.  I will have to reflect more on this!  Thanks! x0x
    The LEARNED Preneur @ NormaDoiron.NET 

  35. Sometimes people also convince others that they are hens so that they can have the eggs. Such convincing is one of the worst form of abuse.  Like Mary had said. “Before long, you begin to believe what you are hearing over and over again.’ and that made her stay.

  36. Oh my, what a good topic! I think every generation comes to adulthood and looks at the ones being raised as unruly, disrespectful and lacking in social mores.  I also think we’re all guilty of not stepping up and confronting a negative situation because it’s too scary, it’s too much trouble, we’re running late for an appointment….any manner of excuses.  The other side of the coin is that sometimes a situation that appears negative to our eyes is serving that person in a way that they’re choosing to hold onto, for whatever reason, and nothing we say or do will make a difference.

    So, what is the answer? One single, neat, tied up in a bow answer doesn’t exist. It’s situational, conditional and changing moment by moment. It’s one of those gray areas, challenging to figure out which way to step. I do my best on a daily basis to take the right path, but I admit I’m guilty of many of these poorer choices.  I can look back and remember moments where I did choose to step in and attempt to make a positive difference, and many of those moments ended badly.  I was younger and more brash in my delivery.  These days, tact and kindness go a long way towards smoothing the road, but it remains a tricky issue with deciding where to step in and how to step up.
    Wonderful post, Corinne! 🙂

  37. Thank you so much, Elizabeth Young. Time for us to get you your own domain don’t you think? 🙂

  38. You can still host at Blogger Elizabeth. But just have your own domain – very simple and I can set it up for you 🙂

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