It has been said, “Be contented with what you have, but never too contented with what you are.”
There is a story that comes out of Asia about a farmer who saw a tiger’s tail swishing between two large rocks. In a moment of haste, he grabbed the tail and pulled. All of a sudden he realized he had an angry tiger by the tail and only two rocks stood between him and the tiger’s teeth and claws! So there he remained, afraid to loosen his grip on the enraged animal’s tail lest he surely be killed.
A monk happened by and the farmer called out in desperation, “Come over here and help me kill this tiger.”
The holy man said, “Oh, no. I cannot do that. I cannot take the life of another.” Then he went on to deliver a homily against killing. All the while, the farmer was holding tightly to the tail of an angry tiger.
When the monk finally finished his sermon, the farmer pleaded, “If you won’t kill the tiger, then at least come hold its tail while I kill it.”
The monk thought that perhaps it would be all right to simply hold the tiger’s tail, so he grabbed hold and pulled. The farmer, however, turned and walked away down the road.
The monk shouted after him, “Come back here and kill the tiger!”
“Oh, no,” the farmer replied. “You have converted me!”
What is conversion? It is change. With money, conversion can be the change of a bill into coin or the change of currency from one country into that of another. On the human level, conversion can be a change in beliefs, a change in ideas, a change in attitudes, a change in behaviors or even a change in priorities. To say, “I’m a changed person!” is to say you have somehow been converted.
There are two things I’ve learned about conversion and change. The first is that conversion is not a bad thing. To say you’ve been converted to something does not make you a fanatic. It means you’ve changed your mind or your outlook. If the largest room in the world is “room for improvement,” then it is good to leave plenty of room for change.
And that’s the second thing I’ve learned about conversion – it’s an ongoing process. I always want to leave room for change, room to keep growing. To say, “I’ve been converted and that’s that,” is to say you have decided to quit growing. If life is about anything, it is about growing. The day I quit changing and learning is the day I die.
I like the old southern American slave’s prayer: “I ain’t what I ought to be and I ain’t what I’m again’ to be. But I give thanks that I ain’t what I used to be.” Change, for him, has been a good thing and it’s not over yet. Here is a person whose life is like an on-going journey. He is always growing. Always changing. Always becoming. And always aware there’s a little more room for improvement.