Sting Of The Scorpion

Scorpion wants to cross the river so approaches Crocodile to ask for a lift to the other side.

Scorpion!“, replies Crocodile. “Do you think I’m crazy? I’ll get half way across the river and you’ll stab me with that sting of yours. I’m a crocodile, not an idiot.

Oh, Mr. Crocodile!” replies Scorpion. “I’m no idiot either. If I sting you in the middle of the river you’ll sink to the bottom and, as I can’t swim, I’ll surely drown! Now, I think you’ll agree that would be very idiotic of me to kill both of us. And … I promise not to sting you.

Crocodile thinks about this for a moment, is swayed by the logic in what he hears and agrees to take Scorpion across the river. They set off, Scorpion safely nestled on his back.

In the middle of the river, Scorpion brings out his sting and stabs Crocodile in the neck. Crocodile turns his head to look at Scorpion and with his dying breathe asks,

Why did you do that? We’re both going to die. It just doesn’t make any sense. And you promised!

Scorpion shrugs his shoulders.

It’s not my fault. Hey. I’m a scorpion and that’s what scorpions do.

I was brought up on a staple diet of happy endings, so when I first heard this ancient fable, I was shocked. How could the scorpion do that? What kind of cruel, dark world does this point to? Are we really trapped by some pre-determined programming – and if so, what is it?

There are many things in this story. Trust, the irrationality of behaviour, the occasional cruelty of life. There’s one area, though, I’m going to focus on here.

Trapped By Our Nature?

The one that strikes me most is how much violence is justified by thinking we’re trapped by some pre-determined programming. At the most obvious level it’s the commonly held belief that we’re by nature violent hunters. I don’t want to tread on worn ground here … but, come on! Just look at our bodies. Where are the vicious claws or the hunter’s teeth?

Even if we were pre-programmed towards violence, rather than peace, it doesn’t mean we have no choice.

We’re not like the scorpion, no matter how comforting it might be to hide behind this. It’s comforting because if we’re fulfilling some pre-formed conditioning then we don’t have to take responsibility for our actions. The scorpion shrugs his shoulders and says, “It’s not my fault. I’m not responsible for stabbing you.”

I’m reminded of those horrific situations where ‘terrorists’ take hostages and issue demands, threatening to harm the captives if they’re not met. It’s usually followed (at least in Hollywood movies) by some comment like, If you don’t meet our demands, the hostage’s blood will be on your hands. It will be your fault if we kill them.

The unspoken assumption is , “Hey ! We’re ‘terrorists’ and that’s what ‘terrorists’ do. IT’S NOT OUR FAULT.

Give me a break!

Our genes and our upbringing no doubt shape us, but at a certain point we have to take responsibility for our lives and our behaviour.

My mother didn’t love me enough. My father was never around. I went to a bad school,” might work up to the age of sixteen (maybe a bit later for some). As an adult they’re feeble excuses for not making different choices about what we do.

[I know my Mum reads this from time to time, so Mum – these comments are not mine and they’re not directed at you or Dad.]

Day to Day Identification

If I’m honest I often unconsciously identify myself with something and then act out from that identification. When I’m unaware then it’s hard to do something about it, difficult to recognise I have a choice.

One reason I’m passionate about self-development is that it helps bring those hidden things into the light. It helps me identify when my scorpion sting is busy wreaking havoc with my life.

When I’m aware, I have more capacity to choose the actions that make life better for myself and those around me. It’s a long and sometimes rocky road and one without a particular destination other than a desire to make a positive contribution to the world.

A couple of examples I noticed over the last years:

  • I’m an introvert – which I use to justify withdrawing from the world, closing down from time to time with even those people closest to me, and avoiding social situations like the plague.

The sting? Depression, loneliness, loss of friendships, lethargy … and it’s confusing, frustrating and worrying for people in my life.

  • I’m a man – which justifies a whole range of ‘manly’ things such as using logic in emotional situations, an almost obsessive desire to fix things and a refusal to ask for directions even when hopelessly lost.

The sting? Trouble dealing with the inherent messiness of life and relating to emotionally charged situations … and again it’s frustrating and disconnecting for others (especially the females in my life).

Noticing these things doesn’t necessarily change what I do but it does make my actions conscious and I’m more likely to manage the fall-out. For example, I still withdraw – but it’s a conscious choice and I can communicate to those around me that I need my space right now rather than mysteriously disappearing.

I take the venom out of the scorpion sting.

I don’t drown and those around me don’t get poisoned.

We all make it safely to other side.

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