Joel Furches recently posted the following on social media:
“The Aesop’s Fable I have come to most appreciate over the years is ‘The Frog and the Scorpion’ If you’re not familiar, it’s about a scorpion who asks a frog to swim him across the water. The frog doesn’t want to, because he’s afraid of getting stung. The scorpion points out that if he stings the frog, they will both drown. So the frog swims him, the scorpion stings the frog, and they both drown. Why? Because it is the nature of scorpions to sting.
“The moral: things act out of their nature, even at the expense of their self-interest. Or as my dad used to say, ‘a person will never do something that person wouldn’t do.’ Which, I suppose, could be rephrased, ‘A person’s always going to do what that person does.’ (My dad would say ‘peoples are peoples’)”
A more modern phrase that conveys the same idea might be: “the tiger cannot change its stripes”; or “the leopard cannot change its spots”. The idea is that a person cannot change his or her essential nature or character.
My “take” on the frog and scorpion fable is that we shouldn’t expect people to be anything other than who they really are. Despite what the scorpions tells you, the scorpion IS going to sting you. That’s what they do. That’s who they are.
Fables are meant to teach life lessons. The wise, theoretically, learn from them without having to experience those lessons firsthand. In reality though, it seems most of us have to learn our life lessons from experience.
These fables are still helpful by allowing us to crystallize those hard learned lessons in graphic ways that we can remember and pass on – if only people would listen. Right?
But what is the lesson? We might “walk away” the next time someone hurts us with a lie swearing under our breath, “Once a liar, always a liar! I will never trust him or her again!”
Fables teach us something about human nature, but fables don’t always give us specific guidance tailored to our own dilemmas. We still need wisdom to apply the lessons in our particular circumstances. “A word to the wise” requires wisdom for its application in our own lives.
“Truth is truth” (wherever it may be found) is a “truism” I like to repeat. Aesop may have been a very wise man (if there really was an Aesop), and Aesop’s fables carry with them the ring of truth, but truth is often more complicated than we like to think it is.
Just when you think you understand the laws of physics, quantum mechanics comes along and turns everything upside down. Further, the wisdom needed to address our particular circumstances doesn’t necessarily go hand in hand with knowledge and awareness.
The Frog and Scorpion fable rings true, but Scripture gives us a different angle on the truth of this fable and guidance that we need to deal with the scorpions in our lives. That lesson may not be immediately clear if we limit ourselves to the fable, itself.Continue reading “Can a Tiger Change Its Stripes? A Tale of Scorpions and Frogs”