The Dangers of Crying Wolf

“The Boy Who Cried Wolf” is the title of one of Aesop’s Fables, a children’s story that ends with the line, “Nobody believes a liar…even when he is telling the truth!” 

While this story reveals the element of a prank based on a child’s mischief coupled with boredom, where there is compassion for him. This story also depicts the dangers of crying wolf.

What does “to cry wolf?” mean?

Freedictionary.com suggests that this is an idiom “to cry or complain about something when nothing is really wrong” or “to ask for help when you do not need it, with the result that no one believes you when help is necessary”.

Perhaps one might suggest that everyone cries wolf, at one time or another, for different reasons, simply because we are all human and prone to err. It is a natural instinct to cry for help, even when there is just the slightest fear or suspicion of danger. Some people tend to be fearful, cry or complain, or even ask for help, almost all of the time. Over time, this kind of an emotional response or reaction will likely resolve itself.

“Crying wolf” results in serious concerns if it becomes the habitual behavior of someone engaged in mischief. He or she may be trying to alarm others or simply get attention from them. He or she may also be acting as a jokester. If this occurs too often, others will ignore him or her. While initially, others may respond quickly to the plea for help and take it seriously, to them, the attention-seeker soon becomes someone no longer telling the truth, but rather a liar. Remember that there are outright lies, as well as ‘white’ lies. Lies are often the product of one’s overactive imagination.

One of the dangers of crying wolf continually is that after a while, no one believes anything and it all appears to be untruth. It is not fun or fantasy. What ‘the liar’ says does not matter even when he or she is has a valid reason to be afraid. 

Be aware that everyone has fears of some kind, regardless of his or her age.

Learning to cope with fear is something that comes instinctively to some; others have to learn to cope with fear. Of course, there are varying degrees of fear.  For example, youngsters are fearful of many things. In a strong, supportive family setting, these fears are seldom debilitating. When there is no supportive family setting, youngsters may become fearful of one thing after another, being forced to learn to cope with their fears on their own. One way to cope with fear is by demanding attention.

As the child grows older, paranoia can set in if these fears are not resolved in some way. This paranoia can carry through into teen, adult and even senior adult years. When a real danger presents itself, the child, teen or adult who has become paranoid may continually “cry wolf”, but by then, others may simply regard it as another expression of paranoia.

An attention-seeker in real danger frequently has to find help elsewhere.

There are serious situations where real danger is imminent and cries for help seem to be crying wolf. For example, a teenage girl stalked by someone over a long time, may lose her credibility. “She is lying,” may be the immediate reaction to her ongoing demands for attention. She finally has to go to the police for help, as no one else believes her any longer, because she always seems to be crying wolf.      

In a world where ‘wolves’ come in all sizes, shapes and colors, accurately discerning and dealing with actual danger is critical to survival. No one should continually cry wolf.