It’s Never Too Late to Mend the Fence
Today let me begin the story with a popular music video (one of the most viewed on youtube with 89+ million views as of today):
OK, do you like the MV? I like it a lot, even better with another version “Too Late to Apologize: A Declaration” by Soomo Publishing.
In the song, the lyrics say “It’s too late to apologize…”. However, I kind of agree with one of commentator said: it’s NEVER too late to apologize. In everyday life, in our social or romantic relationships, when mistakes and misunderstandings happen, we need to apologize to mend the damage. Most time you will be surprised how effective it works. And even if it doesn’t work sometimes, it wouldn’t cost you much. So give a sincere apology and it’s never too late.
There is a 2000+ years old story in China about this. It tells us that it’s never to late to fix the issue when bad things happen. At least, it prevents future loss.
It’s never too late to mend the fence, even after you have lost some sheep
One day, an official in the State of Chu named Zhuang Xin said to his King Xiang: “Your majesty is accompanied by Duke Zhou and Duke Xia by your side, and followed by Lord Yanling and Lord Shouling. These four cunning and futile men, who are in charge of state affairs, are very allergic to work. They only know to please you by faking and plotting things.
If you keep ignoring the state affairs and enjoying unrestricted life style, I am afraid that our country would be in danger soon.”
The King flew into a rage. “How dare you! You even use such vicious words to curse my country and mean to arouse resentment among the people!”
Zhuang Xin replied: “I dare not curse the State of Chu. But I really have a premonition that Chu is facing great danger. If you keep trusting these four people without limits, our country would perish because of them. Please allow me to go to State of Zhao, I can take there as a shelter and observe the change of State of Chu”.
Xin left Chu for Zhao. He only stayed 5 months before the King of Qin sent his troops to invade Chu and occupied a large tract of its territory. The King of Chu himself went into exile.
Now, the king remembered Zhuang Xin’s words. He sent his men to Zhao to fetch him. When the king saw Zhuang Xin again, he asked him, “I regret so much that I did not follow your advice. What can I do now in such a critical situation?”
Zhuang Xin replied: “I heard proverbs saying, it is never too late to let the hounds loose, even after the rabbit has already been spotted, and it is not too late to mend the fence even after the sheep are already lost.
As we know in the history, great leaders like King Tang of Shang and King Wu of Zhou had only a hundred li of territory but successfully won the entire China; however, corrupted King Jie of Xia and King Zhou of Shang, although they had the crown, but eventually end up failed and killed. Now the territory of Chu might be narrow, but we still have several thousands li, that’s much more than a hundred li which King Tang and King Wu had.
As long as a king trusts the right individuals and brings together his people, he has the power to reclaim what was once his and repel the enemy.”
Hearing his confident and encouraging words, King Xiang of Chu decided to heed Zhuang Xin’s advice and take action. He got rid of the no good slackers and replaced them with skillful and trustworthy men. He assigned Zhuang Xin to run the state. Soon, Xin helped the King banish the enemy from his land.
The idiom “Mend the fence after a sheep is lost” has developed from Zhuang Xin’s answer to the king.
This idiom reminds us that it is never too late to try to do something to mend things, even if the damage has already been done. Instead of crying over our lost sheep, even at a time of misfortune, we should think about what we can do to ensure a better future – to mend the fence in order to prevent the same mischance from occurring again.