There are various versions of this story, but this is the one I like.
A wise man heard that another citizen of the town had also been called wise. He ran up to the man’s garden where the second man sat in the afternoon and talked with with the townspeople.
The first man said, “I have a bird in my pocket. If you are so wise, tell me if it’s alive or dead.”
The second man said without hesitating, “It’s dead.”
“Ha!” said the first man, holding up the bird and letting it fly away. “You are no wise man.” And he walked back to his house, and many of the townspeople followed him, disappointed that they had been listening to the wrong man.
One young man stayed. “Master, why did you say dead? I could hear the bird chirping.”
The second wise man smiled. “Because it was a trick. If I said alive, he would strangle the bird as he brought it out of his pocket. But if I said dead, he would do as he did.”
“But if you had said alive, we would have backed you up. And we could have proved that you were right.”
The second wise man smiled again. “But the bird would have died. And there is no wisdom without kindness.”
I have thought about this story recently. What if we all stopped worrying so much about being right and beating the other side? (And often, in the process, creating eternal animosities.) What if we worked harder to be kind to those around us, to those who disagree with us, to everything that shares our planet?