Not Your Nature, Your Choice: Abuse, Life, and the Scorpion and the Frog

Most people know the fable about the Scorpion and the Frog. In case you don’t, a scorpion coaxes a frog to carry him across the river since the frog can swim and the scorpion cannot. The frog is skeptical at first, but the scorpion pleads convincingly, appealing to the frog’s sense of duty. The scorpion also points out that it would be unwise for the scorpion to sting the frog because if so, they’d both drown. The frog agrees.

Halfway through the trip, the frog is stung in the back by the scorpion, which causes instant paralysis. Incredulous at this betrayal and unable to swim, the frog asks the scorpion to explain why, as now they are both sinking into the water and will both die. The scorpion replies, “It’s in my nature.”

Frog-and-Scorpion pic.jpg
Image is a colorful illustration of a scorpion stinging a frog in its back. Photo credit: gfather politics

It’s supposed to be a commentary on human nature and who we truly are; our innate characteristics. But it’s wrong.

I’ve been the gullible, trusting, frog. I’ve been persuaded to believe things that I should have known were untrue - because I wanted to believe in good. I’ve gone against my better judgement to assist someone else even though there would be little to no gain for me. I’ve looked at scorpions, grasping jaws and venomous stinger plainly visible, and convinced myself that I should believe them when they promised to do me no harm - even if I’d previously been stung.

I’ve piled what I don’t need upon my back and began to travel through long, treacherous waters. Not only did the other party not render any support or assistance, I was weighted down by trying to keep both myself AND them afloat. I’ve left my safe, comfortable habitat and plunged myself into the cold to fulfill someone else’s desires. Where they were headed I had no place being there. Shouldn't have gone; shouldn't have even considered going. But I agreed.

So the first part of the fable is accurate.

It’s the ending that I am rejecting. You see, if this is supposed to be a commentary on human nature, then that ending is all wrong. In actuality, it would go something more like this:

Halfway through the trip, the frog gets tired. She has, after all, swam half the length of the river unaided without stopping. She expresses her fatigue to the scorpion and asks if they can tread water to rest. Or if the scorpion would consider re-positioning himself to distribute the weight more evenly. Or if they could search for a piece of driftwood that the scorpion could float on for a little while - to make it easier.

In turn, the scorpion gaslights her and makes her feel inadequate and selfish for making her struggles and needs known. So the frog suppresses her thoughts and continues to maneuver through the water, silently enduring her internal pain. In this version the scorpion does NOT sting her in the back while they are midway through their trip. The frog makes it all the way to the other side.

 From this point, there are a multitude of possible endings. Perhaps now that the scorpion has gotten what he needed out of the frog he will sting her now because she has served her purpose.

Maybe he won’t sting her at all. Maybe he will open his jaws and poise his stinger like he’s going to do so, and when the frog cowers in fear he’s going to belittle her for her fear and tell her how stupid she is...he wasn’t really going to sting her and that maybe the reason she was scared is because she has a guilty conscience and thinks she deserves to be stung.

Maybe he’ll accuse her of having taken other scorpions across the river, and will say that she probably swam faster and without complaint for them, and that he doesn’t even know why he decided to let her take him at all because she’s a frog whore.

Maybe he will sting her, but not enough to kill her. Just enough to hurt; just enough to let her know that she’s not in control and that if he really wanted to he could take her out. But he has chosen to be merciful; she should be grateful and should stop pouting and being overdramatic.

Maybe once they get there she will explore the river bank and eventually stumble across another animal. She is wary at first, but he is kind to her. He gains her trust, and she is happy and at peace, forgetting all about the scorpion and enjoying her new life. But one day the scorpion appears out of nowhere and approaches her. Apologizes for how he acted in the middle of the river, complimenting her, telling her how much he misses and cares for her. Her memories on the other side of the river bank are distant, but she begins to reminisce, soften, and fall under the scorpion’s spell despite the fact that she should know better and has everything she needs. At the end of the day, she’s the same frog that he convinced so long ago. She is weak for him, and she is easy to manipulate - as she was in the past.

Maybe he will look around, declare that he absolutely HATES this side of the river, turn things around on the frog and tell her that it’s HER fault that they are there; he never wanted to come here; he only suggested it because it’s what SHE wanted; and that she ruins everything - at which point the frog will take the bait, plead for the scorpion’s forgiveness, and agree to make the exhausting return trip back where they started from.

Maybe he will walk along the bank of the river, find another frog, and begin to woo her; spewing lies about the “awful” frog who brought him here who was so problematic and unsupportive. That frog will of course believe him; he is a charismatic speaker with an air of innocence.

Maybe he will attempt to sting the frog and she will escape and run for cover. Then he will search for her and find her and tearfully ask her to forgive him. He never really wanted to sting her. He’s just a product of his environment; of his scorpion makeup; of his upbringing. He didn’t know any better; he had to sting everyone all of his life to survive, to protect himself. But he can change - he HAS changed; please trust him. She will believe every word and will return to him - only for him to sting the h3// out of her.

Any number of things can happen. But I’ll tell you what will NOT happen. The scorpion will never, never, never sting the frog in the middle of the river. Because in doing so he’d also die too. And oh, no. He will never let that happen - not ever. He’s not going to allow himself to be drowned; he loves himself too much for that. You see, the reason he will wait until he knows he is safe is because it’s NOT “his nature.” It’s his choice.

He is not a victim of circumstances nor a puppet in the game of life. He is a predator. Underestimate him at your own peril; he doesn’t play to lose. He is a survivor. He will enter through miniscule cracks; burrow himself in unconventional places; hide out in the cool darkness.

He is a master hunter - but he will seldom seek out his match, another scorpion. Why would he? You’re so much easier as prey. You barely require effort or thought, and you are easily defeated. And you won’t see him coming until it’s too late, and even when you do, you are easily fooled.

But all hope is not lost. A frog might not have the ability to sting and fight. But you do have those magnificent legs. You were born to leap - freely. Little frog, no scorpion defines who you are. It’s time for you to do what you were made to do. Leap - high. Soar. Far away from the sting; far away from the hurt; far away from the danger. You can be safe, and you can be free. And you deserve to be.

Believe in yourself. You can still leap no matter how many times he has stung you, because you’re still a frog. Maybe you can’t leap as high as you once could; maybe you can’t leap as far or as fast. But you can still leap. What happened to you, what you’ve been through, what you’ve seen, what you’ve felt, what you’ve done, what you should have done, what you shouldn’t have done - none of that changes the essence of who you are. No bad choices, no poor decisions, no hurt, no pain, no regrets, no shame can transform you into something other than who and what you are.

You are still you. You will always be you. You never lost you. She is still in are still in there. Tired, weary, sad, scared, weak. But there. Still there.

Just take that first leap, and the rest will come naturally. Safety awaits. Peace awaits...freedom awaits. He may continue to threaten to sting you, but you cannot let that fear keep you captive any longer. You need to get free.

Just take the leap.


  1. This is a really beautiful allegory for domestic violence, in which the scorpion is the abusive spouse and the frog is the abused spouse.


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