Once there was a scorpion who wanted to cross a lake. Since scorpions don’t swim, he had a problem.
Along came a turtle. “Mr. Turtle,” asked the scorpion, “could you please take me across the lake?”
The turtle was apprehensive. “No, I’m sorry. You will sting me,” he replied.
“Now, why would I do that?” argued the scorpion. “If I stung you out on the water you would die. Because I can’t swim, I’d drown.”
That made perfect sense to the turtle, so the two of them began their journey across the lake.
Exactly half of the way across, the scorpion stung the turtle.
Shocked and surprised, the turtle cried out, “Mr. Scorpion, why did you do that? Now, I will die and you will drown!”
The scorpion replied with regret, “I’m sorry, but I am a scorpion and scorpions sting.”
The moral of this story is that we can’t help being who we are. We are slaves to our inner impulses which determine our destinies. Even when we see the self-destructive consequences of our habitual behaviour, we usually cannot reform ourselves.
Now, as someone with a lot of life experience, I see the truth that this fable reveals. However, as a Christian, I also believe that humans can, with God’s help, change. I’ve come to recognize some of my own behaviour patterns that have caused me a lot of grief. However, I have been able, with God’s help, to gradually improve.
Let me give you an example. If you’ve been reading my columns, you’ll know that I am very opinionated and I’m not politically correct. A wise person knows that there is a proper time and place for everything, but I’ve never quite learned that lesson when it comes to voicing some of my controversial opinions. This has meant that I’ve permanently damaged some relationships and caused stress in other relationships.
Recently, I waded into the homosexual “marriage” debate with a friend who is agnostic and very liberal minded. The conversation began to become emotionally charged, and I thought, “Oh no, I’ve done it again!” Fortunately, our relationship is a strong one and wasn’t damaged.
I am happy to say that, with God’s help, I have made some improvement in this regard. I started a new job a few weeks ago and I promised myself that I’d stay away from discussing controversial subjects. (However, I do not hide the fact that I am a church going man.) So far, things are going great at work and I haven’t ruffled any one’s feathers.
Occasionally, I’ve heard people complain that no one likes them or that they can’t understand why so many of their relationships begin well but quickly sour. A few of these people I knew well and I could see what they were doing wrong. But, because they had intimidating personalities and didn’t ask my opinion, I must admit that I was afraid to point out their character flaws.
What behaviour patterns are causing grief in your life? Ask God to reveal them to you. Also, it really helps when people feel comfortable enough with you to occasionally criticize your behaviour. (The less intimidating you are, the more likely people will do so.) Also, you can ask someone you trust and who knows you well, “What is it about me that you think I could improve? Don’t worry; you won’t offend me. Please be honest.” It takes humility to allow yourself to be that vulnerable, but if you want to grow in holiness, this is a great way to begin!