Once in awhile, I re-tell the story of the scorpion and the frog. If you don’t know it, it goes something like this: Once there was a scorpion on the side of a river bank, and it called out to a passing frog, “Excuse me, could you please give me a lift across the river? I can’t swim, and I’m meeting a friend in 20 minutes.” The frog looked at the scorpion like it was crazy and replied, “I’m not giving you a ride! Do you take me for an idiot?! You’re a scorpion, you’ll sting me.” And the scorpion said, “If I sting you, you’ll drown, and we’ll both die. Please, I’m going to be late.” So the frog thought this logic made sense, and he didn’t like the idea of making the scorpion late, so he said, “Okay, climb on.” Halfway across the river, the scorpion stung the frog. With his dying breath, the frog said, “Why? Why have you done this to us?!” And the scorpion said, “Dude, I’m a f&cking scorpion.”
This tale has always helped me when I’ve felt stung and confused by another person’s actions. When I’ve felt hurt or betrayed or discarded or rejected. None of these things feels good, and it’s very challenging not to take it personally if we’re hurting at the hands of someone we care about. If you’re feeling rejected, it’s natural to think it must be because you didn’t measure up in some way. Depending on your history and your personality, you might really internalize the experience. If you have doubt about your self-worth, if you think there could be something at your very core that is just not lovable, having someone leave you or abuse you or ignore you might look like a confirmation of your own doubts and fears.
Most of the time, it has very little to do with you. Sometimes you’ve simply gotten involved with a scorpion. People can only be where they are; a person has the tools he has. That doesn’t mean he might not pick up some new tools as he heads down the river; a scorpion has the potential to turn into a frog if he works at it, but if you happen to cross paths with someone when they’re in darkness, you’re probably going to get stung. It’s personal only in the sense that you’ll now have healing to do, but it’s not a reflection of your lovableness. You are love. You’re made of love, I truly believe that.
If you’ve been stung, there’s only one thing for it — you’re going to have to bleed out the poison. The fastest way to do that is to lean into the searing pain of what you’re feeling. Instead of running or denying or repressing, you simply say, “This is how it is right now, and it will not always be like this, and it will not kill me,” and you breathe. You hang out with other frogs who love you, and who will take you to the river and help you see your reflection clearly so you can remember how special you are.
I know sometimes it can feel like you’ll never get over someone. I don’t just mean this in terms of romantic relationships. This happens in families, and it happens with the closest of friends, too. Sometimes the only way you can take care of yourself, the only way you can love yourself, is if you create distance between you and the people in your life who just don’t know how to love. Maybe at some point they will know. You don’t have to be hopeless about it, but until that time, your job is to keep your heart open, and you simply can’t do that if you keep allowing people to sting you. Your heart can only take so much before it starts to close in on itself and that’s just too sad. Your heart is so gorgeous. You are the only one of you that exists, the only one of you the world gets. You’re a gift, and if you allow yourself to drown in the river of sorrow, you rob the world of a gift only you can bring. Hop up on your lily pad and feel the sun on your little froggy face. Wish the scorpions well if you have it in you, but don’t carry them across the river anymore, and don’t mistake the intensity of your feelings of pain as a reflection of the depth of your love. It’s much more likely that scorpion reminded you of another scorpion you knew a long time ago, when you were just a tadpole. Heal that sting, and the other scorpions won’t look so appealing.
Sending you love,
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