There are several renditions of the ‘Snake Story’. The following version, in my opinion, is one of the best. While reading the story also be seeking the deeper understanding behind it.
I once heard a great story about choices. A woman was walking along the road one day when a snake crossed her path. The snake stopped, turned to her and said, “Please lovely lady, please pick me up.”
The woman looked at the snake and said, “No way. I’m not picking you up. You’re a snake. I know what snakes do. You will bite me.”
The snake replied in a seductive tone, “Oh beautiful lady. I am just a lonely snake looking for a little warmth. You have that beautiful cloak around you. All I want is a little hug. Can you just give me a little hug? That’s all I need. I am just a little, old, lonely, snake. Please, please pick me up?”
The woman looked dubiously at the snake, and replied, “You’re kidding right? Do you really think I am that stupid? I’m not picking you up. You’re a snake. You will bite me, I know it. Forget it.”
“But I am not like every other snake. I am a good snake. I don’t bite people, especially a lovely lady such as you. I am just cold and you have that beautiful warm cloak. All I want is a little hug, just for a moment. Please. Please. Take pity on me.”
The lovely lady suddenly felt compassion for the snake and said, “So. That’s all you want? A little hug? That’s it? And if I pick you up, you promise you won’t bite me?”
The snake said, “Of course not. If you pick me up, I give you my word, I will not bite you.”
“Really? I have your word? You won’t bite me?” the lovely lady repeated.
“Really. You have my word.” the snake replied.
The lovely lady thought for a moment and then said, “What the heck. It will only be for a moment. He gave me his word.” She picked up the snake and wrapped him in her cloak.
At that moment, the snake struck her with his fangs, right on the neck.
“Ouch! That hurt! What did you do that for?” the lady exclaimed, as she threw the snake on to the ground. “You gave me your word you wouldn’t bite me?!”
The snake hissed and laughed, “Lovely lady, what do you expect? I’m a snake. Snakes bite. That’s what snakes do. It’s our nature. You knew I was a snake when you picked me up.” At that, the snake slithered off into the bush leaving the lady to die by the side of the road.
Aren’t we all sometimes like this lovely lady? We make choices like this all the time, knowing they are not good or right for us.
We choose to deal with snakes, knowing it is their nature to bite us. Even when we know from our previous experience with them that certain people are not going to be good or kind to us, or do not have our best interests at heart, we still choose to give them another chance.
Why do you think we do that?
A snake is a snake. It will always be a snake. It will always behave like a snake. It will always bite you like a snake. That’s what snakes do. It is their nature.
When you stop and think about it for a moment, we cannot fault the snake for behaving just how it is: a snake.
Instead, we can change our choices. We can respect the fact that a snake is a snake.
We can choose to respect ourselves by not listening to it the snake, not to pick it up next time and keep walking down the road.
I know this is easier said than done. Maya Angelou said, “When people tell you who they really are, believe them the first time.”
Personally, I have tended to be far too trusting and not believed that people could be that cruel, or unkind or dishonest. While it didn’t kill me like this lady in the story above, I gave snake like people far too many chances, and as a result I was the only one left hurting or frustrated in the end.
I know now that no matter how much I believed in these people, or gave them another chance, they were never going to be different than they really were, are now and most likely will continue to be in their future. Once a snake, always a snake.
The next time you have a negative gut feeling about someone, just keep walking. When these snakes show you who they really are, trust your gut about them the first time.
Do you trust your gut instincts about other people when you meet them, or have they burned you? Ever hear that expression, “Burn me once, shame on you. Burn me twice, shame on me.” Do you choose to pick up snakes some times in your life, even after you have been burned by them?
Even today, I still get surprised some times when people bite me, even when I had a gut feeling before I got closer to them – in both business and in life – that they were not to be trusted.