Stories We Tell Ourselves Sr. Dorothy

I don't know who wrote this story and don't recall where I found it. If you happen to know its author, please get in touch and I will give credit.


The Queen's Choice

Once upon a time, in a kingdom that probably never really existed, a woman was caught stealing some coins from a local merchant in the market. This merchant was selling goods on behalf of the queen, so stealing from him was like stealing from the Queen herself. And of course, a crime against the Queen was punishable by death.

The woman was brought to the throne room and immediately she began to cry.

Your majesty, I am a poor woman, who was only trying to buy some food. Had I known I was stealing from you, I never would have tried. Please have mercy on me.”

The Queen looked down on the woman from her throne, not with anger, but with compassion.

It does not matter the reason for your crime. You have stolen from my merchant,” said the Queen. “I cannot allow my people to steal from me without punishment. The law says your crime deserves death, but I will show you mercy. I will allow you to choose your fate.”

The woman looked up at the Queen with a questioning look.

To my left is a curtain,” the Queen continued. “What lies behind it I will not tell. But I can assure you it is a painful experience that most people fear above all else. You may choose to walk through this curtain and face your punishment, or you can choose what is on this table.”

She gestured to a small table on her right. “Here on the table is a cup. This cup contains a poison that will certainly kill you, but you will not feel any pain when you pass through the curtain.”

The Queen had barely finished giving the options before the woman had grabbed the cup and swallowed the poison. The drink was sweet and surprisingly pleasant. She looked up at the Queen and nodded, then turned toward the curtain and slowly walked toward her fate. She could feel the poison begin to numb her senses. As she placed her hands on the curtain her fingers tingled as though her arm was asleep. Before she pulled the curtain back, she looked back at the Queen.

What is on the other side of this curtain?” The woman asked the Queen. “As I am about to die anyway, please show me mercy once more by telling me what waits for me.”

The Queen looked upon the woman with sadness in her eyes. “I have given many people this choice, and all have chosen to drink the cup, afraid of what horrors await them on the other side. This fear makes a peaceful, painless death by poison seem like mercy. But the only thing beyond that curtain is freedom. I have been waiting for someone to have the courage to face it.”



As human beings, we are afraid of so many things: growing up, aging, pain, sickness, death, loneliness, loss of loved ones, being rejected by others. In the midst of all these fears, where can we find a way to move forward? It seems we are blocked on every side by all that we fear.

When we are so afraid, we can find it difficult to have good relationships with other people. We tell ourselves stories about things that happen, and often those stories have no basis in fact. For example, if one of my Sisters ignores me when we pass in the hall, I may start to ask myself why the person is angry with me. I want to make sense of that person’s behavior, and so I start to imagine reasons. A better plan would be to do a reality check first with myself (did I greet her?) and also with her: Perhaps, “I saw you today in the hall and said hello, but you didn’t respond. Are you ok?" It's usually a bit surprising, yet reassuring, to discover that her lack of awareness of me had nothing to do with me, but with something else that was on her mind. Just a little bit of courage to do those reality checks can make a huge difference in how I feel about myself and my Sister. Of course, if she does turn out to be unhappy with me, at least I can find out why and try to set things right with her.

Sometimes just breathing and paying attention to our breath is enough to calm us and let us remember: most of the fearful stories we tell ourselves are not real; they are stories that we make up. If we question those automatic stories, we may find that we need not believe them after all. Sometimes we might need help from another person, perhaps a counselor, to help us learn ways to challenge those stories that keep us from living a full life.

 And I don’t mean to say we shouldn’t be careful when we're afraid that real danger is present; of course we ought to be awake and paying attention in that case. But with those made-up stories about other people's motives, we should question them and test them.

Let us not, like the old woman who was so afraid of the unknown but "painful experience" behind the curtain, lose the best part of our life to fear by drinking the “poison” that avoids pain but keeps us from freedom.










  • Comment posted by Janice J. Ariza on December 4, 2023 at 4:23PM (8 months ago)

    I liked this blog! The way the woman grabbed the cup before she even heard the rest of the options shows the kind of impatience that happens when we are scared. It really is better to face the music and be honest with ourselves have the courage to do it. I also liked the examples of how our minds go to a fearful state of what others might be thinking or if we did something to upset them.
    Thank you, Sr. Dorothy, this was entertaining and thought-provoking.

    • Comment posted by Sr. Dorothy on December 4, 2023 at 4:26PM (8 months ago)

      Thank you, Janice! Yes....fear itself is scary... Glad you enjoye the post *smiles*

  • Comment posted by Paz on December 2, 2023 at 2:18PM (8 months ago)

    Reality Check! Thank you Sr Dorothy for your reflection. Be courageous to do the reality Check and open the curtain of freedom.
    Lovely story.

    • Comment posted by Sr. Dorothy on December 2, 2023 at 2:45PM (8 months ago)

      Thanks, Sr. Paz! A part of our growth, for sure. *smiles*

  • Comment posted by S. Monika on December 2, 2023 at 1:21PM (8 months ago)

    Thanks for this meditation, S. Dorothy. You've given me a lot to think about. 😌

    • Comment posted by Sr. Dorothy on December 2, 2023 at 1:45PM (8 months ago)

      Thanks, Sr. Monika. For all of us to be more aware of, I think, and more engaged with. :)

  • Comment posted by Laura Swan on December 2, 2023 at 12:50PM (8 months ago)

    Fun story. Nicely done. Too often we do not allow ourselves to experience true freedom!

    • Comment posted by Sr. Dorothy on December 2, 2023 at 12:52PM (8 months ago)

      thanks, Sr Laura. Yes, a common human situation, I believe. But we can always change how we do things!

Post your comment

RSS feed for comments on this page | RSS feed for all comments

← Previous post: Thankful for Autumn! Sr. Raphaela     •     Next post: A Mysterious Visitor →

Subscribe via email



Recent posts

By author

By month