In her book, The Silent Master, Dr. Tae Yun Kim uses the following story to illustrate, "I Can't" Usually Means "I Won't"

If you look honestly, you will usually find that your words, "I can't" actually mean "I could, but I won't for this or that reason." 

During a war, a group of people were fleeing from the enemy.  Among them was an old man and a woman with a baby.  For many days they ran and hid, always with the enemy close behind and danger from every corner.

As they ran, others in the group helped the mother carry the baby, except for the old man who was already very weak.

Tae Yun Kim

After a few days the old man was so tired he just couldn't go on.  He fell by the side of the road and lay there breathless.  The others stopped to help, but he urged them on, asking them to just leave him there.  He had given up all will to live, all desire for life or the future.

The enemy was fast approaching, so the others were anxious to move on. The woman with baby then looked down at the old man and said, "It's your turn.  Everyone else has helped carry the baby.  Now it's your turn.  You must fulfill your responsibility."

Tae Yun Kim

She placed the baby in the old man's lap and went after the others who were hurrying away.  Inside, her heart beat terribly for the child, but she kept going.  Others in the group wondered why she was just leaving her baby there to die.  What kind of mother was she?  But still, they all kept moving.

Meanwhile, the old man held the baby, the sound of the enemy drawing nearer.  His heart was filled with weariness and despair, yet he was stirred by the baby moving and mumbling next to him.  His life had been full and long, with much pain and happiness, and he just felt too tired to go on.  But beside him was a little baby that had many years ahead of it and so much to live for.  

He could not just lie there and take that away from the child.  Strength and new energy then flowed into his veins.  He picked up the child and ran as best he could to catch up to the others.

On and on he went with only one thought in his mind: the safety of the child.  Nothing else mattered, not fear, weariness, hunger. On and on he ran 'til in the distance he could see his friends still moving quickly. He was so close, only a little further to go to reach them.

Before long, he caught them, stumbling into their midst with the precious baby, gasping for breath.  The others were amazed at this feat and wondered where he had found the strength to run with the child and catch them.  But they could see his face was filled with a resoluteness and determination they hadn't seen before.

Gently, he handed the child to the mother who took back the little body lovingly.  Her heart was filled with joy, both for her child and for the old man.  Together they continued onward, away from the enemy until they were safe and secure.

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