Sunday, September 11, 2022

A Leopard Cannot Change Its Spots (#MY Eng 61)

This is part of a running series about English idioms - less about language, more about life itself. Previously, we covered 'missing the woods for the trees', 'the elephant in the room', 'practising what you preach', blowing hot and cold', 'no smoke without fire', 'one swallow does not make a summer', 'apples and oranges', 'cut to the chase', 'leave no stone unturned', 'that's the way the cookie crumbles', 'can't have your cake and eat it too', 'old is gold', 'putting the cart before the horse', 'mountain out of a molehill', 'pot calling the kettle black', 'bite the bullet', 'go the extra mile', 'silence is golden', 'the devil is in the details', 'sink or swim', 'once bitten twice shy', 'don't count your chickens before they hatch', 'don't put all your eggs into one basket', 'chicken and egg', 'walking on eggshells', 'flogging a dead horse', 'better late than never', 'storm in a teacup', 'between a rock and a hard place', 'darkest before dawn', 'empty vessels make the most noise', 'birds of a feather flock together', 'separate the wheat from the chaff', 'let sleeping dogs lie', 'open a can of worms', 'light at the end of the tunnel', 'trial and error', 'look before you leap', 'lightning in a bottle', 'on the same page', don't judge a book its cover', 'reinvent the wheel', 'shifting gears', 'throwing in the towel', 'jump on the bandwagon', 'passing the buck', 'breaking the ice', 'cracking the code', 'when it rains it pours', 'bigger fish to fry', 'ball is in your court', 'back to the drawing board', 'square peg in a round hole', 'don't rock the boat', 'a whole new ball game', 'burning the midnight oil', 'never say never', 'get all your ducks in a row', 'make the hay while the sun shines' and 'tick all the boxes'.

It's unrealistic to expect people to tick all the boxes. Not every student can be of A++ calibre without a single day of abstention or homework deadline misssed. Not every new hire kicks off smoothly without making a single error or pissing off a senior colleague. Not every date lits off the "love at first sight' bulb in our hearts.

Yet, as previously explained, that doesn't mean that we can't set minimum standards for people to abide. How high or low of a threshold to adopt differs from people to people.

I like to think I'm rather patient and tolerant. I strive not to judge a book by its cover. First impression matters, but not as much as counting as one out of three fatal strikes against someone. I'm always hopeful that people can change for the better, no matter the number of flaws they have.

* * *

But by giving people a benefit of doubt, I'm also giving them more time and space to disappoint and annoy me. Which makes me wonder whether I should raise my standards, or more specifically, come to the sad realisation that a leopard cannot change its spots>.

Is old age affecting my level of patience? Or have the years of experience taught me how to better judge people from the start? Could be a mixture of both.

Is old age affecting my level of patience? Or have the years of experience taught me how to better judge people from the start? Could be a mixture of both.

Or maybe I'm actually far too tolerant and nice. I rarely raise my voice. I avoid direct confrontations. I like to frame my constructive criticism very delicately so not to destroy people's morale and motivation.

Or maybe I'm just being rather naive and arrogant to think that my words and actions can make people change. Who am I to tell people how to live their lives? What have I done and achieved in my own life that gives me the authority to preach? Do I even practice what I actually preach?

* * *

Don't get me wrong, I haven't quite given up on humanity. I'm still determined to help people in need of guidance.

But there's a limit to my time and energy. I can't be out saving the whole world. I have to pick and choose my battles. Why bother with taming a stubborn leopard when I only have the power to steer lost sheep to safety?

So if anyone wonders why I'm being particularly indifferent to certain people whilst extra sensitive to others, it's not due to favouritism. Rather, it's a matter of caring for people who actually care enough about changing their lives for the better.

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