Friday, March 12, 2010

Can a zebra change it's stripes

Ever heard the expression “a zebra never changes its stripes” or “a leopard never changes its spots”? They’re used in reference to change, or more accurately, inability to change. Simply put it means that people’s personalities are unlikely to shift suddenly in one direction or another. An expression that encapsulates this thought is one you’ve most likely already heard, “once a cheater, always a cheater”.
I’m beginning to believe that the thought of people changing, myself included,
is more along the lines of fantasy, not reality. It seems more fitting to say that the pattern people’s personalities take as they mature is one of growth, not change.

For a change to occur in a person’s behavior there has to first be a revelation,
a moment of clarity where they realize something is wrong or that a situation could have been handled better. Not easily manufactured! Yet even with revelation,
it’s assumed that they have the humility to admit fault and want to change.

Rest assured I’m not losing my faith in humanity; rather I’m identifying trends in human behavior, which I’m only beginning to understand. The expectation that people “can” change, even if they want to has proven to me a foolish one.
In my experience this only leads to anguish and frustration.

The gravity of the expression “a zebra never changes its stripes” is often felt when trying to answer the question, what do I do when someone I care about cannot get passed a monumental path of errors and mistakes that constanly take them down the wrong path,yet they seem so insignificant to them.
When all you want for them is freedom from their self-perpetuating internal jail, yet your seemingly helpful words fall on deaf ears.

Well I’m still working that one out, but what I do know for certain is that you cannot change for them. I know that sounds obvious but the truth is you cannot sacrifice yourself for someone with an expectation that your sacrifice will give them an “ahh ha” experience. In many cases the kindest yet hardest thing you can do is let them fall. Change as it seems, is futile without consequence.

My feelings towards someone being able to alter their personality for the better (provided they want to) as radically as “change” implies, are similar to those I have for someone trying to quit smoking cold turkey, it’s painful for them, it’s unpleasant for everyone around them and it rarely works.

Upon reflection of recent personal experiences, the validity of the expression “a zebra never changes its stripes” appears more accurate than I want to believe.

That said, people can suprise you, they’re just unlikely to.

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