Quoted: Day One

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its
whole life believing that it is stupid.”

This quote has been, perhaps erroneously, contributed to Albert Einstein although it is possible that he was paraphrasing the work of Dolbear. This article shows the many versions of the quote and other fables that are similar. An interesting read if you are so inclined. 
I am not a fan of the word stupid since I have had to insure that it not be used out of context. It used to really mean something – had an IQ score attached and everything. But now it typically means a child is judging another child on his or her ability to do something that said child was not necessarily designed to do. 

The above quote was originally brought to my attention by a former student. (GR you know I’m talking about you.) She typically felt that her own immense creativity was played down as it was compared to her older sister’s. They were both smart girls and very creative – though in completely different ways. It isn’t often that technical writers are compared to Shakespeare or vice versa. And that’s the way it should be. Both write, both are needed in the world, but they are different creatures – not designed or gifted to do exactly the same things. 

I ran into another stupidity quote yesterday. One of our pastors used a John Wayne quote in his sermon yesterday that went something like this, “Life’s hard. It’s even harder when you’re stupid.” The pastor explained that to him, stupid meant that a person tries to live life out of his own ideas, Biblically based though they may be, rather than living life out of God’s leading. So, God created you as a fish but you are trying to climb trees because you think you are supposed to because the other Christians you know all climb trees. (That’s my combination of the two quotes not his.)

Another leader in our church welcomed us yesterday by sharing his love of the following verses, 

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, 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. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (‭Philippians‬ ‭4‬:‭4-9‬ NIV)

At first glance these may seem to be unrelated thoughts, but here comes the connection.

Yes, we are to put into practice what we have learned – but what we learn is sometimes not what the lesson was intended to teach – we learn that good Christians climb trees (only if they are Zacchaeus), so we try to climb trees. But what the lesson was supposed to be was not about climbing trees, but about putting ourselves in a place to see Jesus with no one hindering our view. So we were not supposed to emulate Zacchaeus’s tree climbing, but his wholehearted desire to meet his savior and Lord. 

We get so caught up in the comparison, that we forget the part about focusing on what is admirable, lovely, pure, etc. It wasn’t the act of climbing the tree that was so admirable, pure, and lovely (he probably flashed a few people on his way up the tree and offended them and their sense of propriety by doing it – surely Jesus didn’t want him to expose himself like that) – it was his pure desire to see Jesus that was lovely and admirable. 

Just like a child being able to explain E=Mc2 (where IS superscript?) appropriately isn’t what other children should try to emulate and teachers should try to duplicate in every other child – it is that child’s desire to learn, and to explain what he learned, and his excitement in learning it that should be emulated and duplicated. 

We have to see what the pure and lovely and admirable things are through God’s eyes in order to know whether we were meant to climb or swim or fly. And how can we be sure to know what God sees? 

Philippians said it all – to rejoice, to be gentle in our manner, and to know that He is near. Our gentleness allows Him to speak to and through us so that we can see the best in every person He created (which is everyone) so that we know how to point them (and ourselves) in the right direction without comparisons that just don’t make sense. 

It is about our IDENTITY – that gift that God gave us that is who we are. 

God, I ask today that you speak gently to my heart and to the hearts of any others who may read this. Show us the loveliness we may have missed in ourselves or in someone else. Help us to be gentle in our dealings with all. Let your eyes guide us to see the best in all. Free us from the comparison to anything or anyone, even if it is Biblically based, if it doesn’t come from you. Thank you, Lord, for your words spoken into my heart and for the time you take each day to meet with me and to remind me who I am.

*Most of my posts don’t require an acknowledgments section, but this time it’s necessary. First, thank you, Greg, for inviting me to join the three day quote challenge. (I may be bending the rules a bit, but I’ll challenge some others in the next day or two.) 

Second, I must thank some of the leaders at my church: Pastor Mike for the illustration of Zacchaeus’s mad climbing skills, Daron for yesterday’s sermon on freedom (and the John Wayne quote), and Breck for the focus on Phillipians.  If you need an encouraging word, please visit the sermon archives – they are great! 

Next, GR for her diligent quest to find her own identity beyond expectations of family, friends, and other naysayers.

And finally, Proverbs 31 Ministries for the challenge to write a prayer describing our need to hear God’s voice.


4 thoughts on “Quoted: Day One

  1. So much to think about here! My family has always been competitive and I used to think I had the raw end of the deal being academic, with a lot of pressure piled on my shoulders as a child, but I recently found out that one of my sisters spent most of our childhood feeling ‘thick’ because we were constantly being compared. There is definitely something to say about looking at the qualities of an individual. But on the other hand, I’ve seen a lot of non-competitiveness now in English schools… many don’t hold competitive sports days now so everyone can feel like a winner, and it makes me wonder if this is the right way to go about it? I know I thrived in trying to do better than anyone else, I may not have bothered if I didn’t have the incentive… It’ll never be a case of one method working for all will it?!


    • There are a great number of schools participating in what some of us call the false self esteem movement – they believe that by eliminating all competition, all students will experience success and will be motivated. That is absolutely not true – the real research shows that being told you are good at something without having to work hard for it and overcome obstacles leads to demotivation and disinterest. Competition can be great for students – when students are able to follow their interests and when they are encouraged appropriately. And some kids need to be gently pushed to try new things so that they know what those interests are. It is important in all of it to make sure that we are not unfairly forcing students to compete for longer than necessary in areas that hold no benefit for them – as determined by the student, teachers, parents, and any other support that the student needs.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It’s such a relief to see someone talking such sense about the whole matter… I completely agree with everything you have just said. Here’s hoping some of it filters through, and that there are a lot more minds like yours out there!

        Liked by 1 person

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