Authored by Tina Kapp
There are many ways to avoid being a frog, starting with not making frog noises or eating bugs as treats or hopping around uncontrollably. But in this podcast I want to tell you about the boiling frog. The boiling frog is an anecdote used as a metaphor to describe people who accept something as the norm if it’s introduced gradually. If you stick a frog in hot water, naturally he’ll jump out, but if he’s placed in a pot of water that begins at room temperature and you very gradually heat it up, he won’t realize the danger … until it’s too late.
In life, we can become used to negative things when we gradually allow them to become a part of our lives. Health problems can start out this way. We make bad choices, which then become habits. Or spiritually, we could become used to hearing our faith ridiculed by friends, TV, or social media, to where we ignore the ridicule and possibly, without thinking, begin to accept it. We can also numb ourselves to violence, racism, prejudice, or immorality by the books we read, the movies we watch, or the games we play “for fun.”
This can also happen when we welcome negative friendships or relationships into our lives. Perhaps we’ve known some people for a long time and have become used to the way they act, and we don’t want to rock the boat, so we make excuses for their behavior.
There’s an old Arabian proverb: “Once the camel gets his nose in the tent, his body will soon follow.” I’ve heard this story told a number of ways, generally depicting a camel and his master traveling through the desert. At night as the cold settles over the desert, the master sets up his tent to go to sleep. The camel asks if he can just stick his nose into the tent to warm it. After his owner agrees, the camel pleads to put his whole head in because of the bitter cold. The master relents, and on and on it goes, until eventually he’s asking for his hind legs to enter the tent, which of course ends up with the whole camel taking over the tent and his unwitting master getting stuck outside in the cold.
This story is also often used in sales strategy training seminars. They teach salesmen that rather than try to become the new permanent supplier for a company right off the bat, they should begin with getting the company to make one small order, which can usually be approved without too much red tape. Once that order is made, the salesman is then seen as a vendor or a once-off supplier. From that newly developed relationship, they can more easily grow their business to a slightly larger order, until they reach the goal of taking over and becoming the new permanent supplier.
Paul also understood how this worked. He wrote to the Ephesians, “Do not give the devil a foothold.”1 Peter says, “Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled.”2 You have to take a step back and make sure you’re not letting any negative influences get their “nose” into the tent of your life.
If you catch them in their early stages, it’s easy to kick negative influences out, or to “jump out of that hot water.” But ignoring them and telling yourself they aren’t so bad is what will get you in deeper, and it will be a lot harder to pull yourself out.
Many people with serious addictions never imagined at the start that their initial experimenting would become a problem that would take over and ruin their lives. They probably just thought they would just do it once in a while, or only when other people were doing it. It takes a strong mind and a lot of willpower to know when something is wrong, or could lead to wrong, and choose to stay away from it.
Back to frogs: Another interesting thing is that they don’t need to drink water the way we do; they absorb water through their permeable skin! Fascinating!
The same thing can happen with us and negative influences. Maybe it’s not something we consciously approve of or set out to do, but it can subtly make its way into our lives. Maybe a friend loans you a violent or unedifying book, or persuades you to watch a TV series that goes against your beliefs or your personal set of moral values.
“Edifying” is a word I grew up hearing but only recently looked up. According to one definition, it means “To instruct, especially so as to encourage intellectual, moral, or spiritual improvement.”3 That is something worth thinking about or applying in whatever we do. We should ask ourselves if our choice of entertainment helps us to develop our intellect, our morals, or our spirituality. If not, we make sure to reject it at the start. It will be much easier to do, and will give us a better footing to choose which influences we will allow into our life.
Putting our wisdom and willpower to work will keep us from being like the frog, where our surroundings get the better of us and we no longer realize there’s any danger.
I admit it can be much harder to keep your beliefs and moral values, as well as have a clear knowledge of right and wrong—but that just means it’s never been more needed. In Romans it says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”4
And a great list of what to remind ourselves of and what we should base our choices on is spelled out in Philippians 4:8: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”5
If we can follow this outline when choosing which influences or friendships we will allow into our lives, then we’ve succeeded in being a wise and discerning person, which admittedly sounds a lot better than being a frog.
1 Ephesians 4:27 NIV
2 1 Peter 1:13 NIV
4 Romans 12:2 NIV
5 Philippians 4:8 NIV
Read by Stephen Larriva. Music by sindustry(CC). Copyright© 2016 by The Family International