Thursday, 29 September 2011

Leopards don't change their spots...or do they?

 It's a funny thing. For businesses, change and innovation go hand in hand. Changing things up leads to new ways of dealing with problems and innovation ensues. Everyone wins. For society, not so much.

When someone we know has hurt us/ done wrong in the past, we do one of two things: 1) forgive and forget or 2) ditch them and move on. Then we piece our lives back together (making modifications where necessary to deal the misdemeanor) and life goes on.

Then BAM. Out of nowhere, they return and we're faced with the dilemma: have they changed? or will history just repeat itself? then we're reminded of the old adage "leopards don't change their spots" and we're reluctant to readmit them back into our lives. But then we want to be the bigger person and to not hold grudges and so we consider letting them back in. SO.. what to do? 

Are those who believe the old phrase just more cynical? or just realistic? 

Are those who are willing to give the wrongdoer the benefit of the doubt and (give them a chance to show that they have indeed changed their ways)- are they just more hopeful? or just want to believe the best? foolish even?

Maybe it depends on how you look at it. 

People will always make mistakes. Some mistakes will be bigger than others. Its all part of being human.  But all mistakes - big or small - are lessons which help us grow. If you learn from them, that is. And when you learn from them, it is only natural that you want to make things right (and to be forgiven) with the unfortunate person who had to get hurt in order for you to learn. 

For example, if you were cooking and burnt your friend's kitchen down. They got mad, you had a fight...yada yada yada... then you went away, learned how to cook properly and you went to make things right with your friend. They forgive you (or so it seems) and you tell them that you want to cook in their kitchen again and they turn around and say no- since you burnt it down the last time- despite you telling them that you had changed: you had learned your lesson and now you know what to do and what not to do. 

As the cynic- you can understand their position on this. They may have forgiven for the previous time but they also learned a lesson: to never let you near their kitchen again. Which is understandable. It would appear foolish on their part to let you go back there again.  

But as the wrongdoer- it's a bit cutting that they had such little faith in you. They didn't believe that you were capable of changing. It's a bit disheartening, and makes you wonder what was the point of learning how to cook if the only person you aimed to show that you had changed, didn't believe that you had changed at all? They didn't even give you the chance. And what's worse is that they keep reminding you of the mistake that you made.

(This is starting to make the cynic appear really really mean-totally not my intention; just giving the other side of the coin)

Is forgiveness really forgiveness when it's only limited? Forgiving someone-but only to a certain extent? 

Is it this attitude in the cynics that has spurred the attitude within the wrongdoers of "why should I try and change? You don't think I can since you keep reminding me of my error" and thus reinforced the idea of "leopards don't change their spots?" A self-fulfilling prophecy?

Do we say "But they've changed!"  only about the people who we really want to see the changes in? The ones we really want to believe the best in? and that "they'll never change" about those who we are adamant that they never will? 

Change isn't something to be feared or shied away from nor should it be doubted when present. When a business changes things around- they hope for the better. They put all their energies into making it work. Believing the best outcomes will come about from the changes. The positive belief that change has made new, innovative ideas possible for them and helped the company grow. If society implemented this kind of positive thinking towards change more often, growth would occur organically and perhaps reduce cynicism.

Leopards don't change their spots... or do they?