A Leopard Cannot Change his Spots

By Basee Saka


The notion that things cannot change their innate nature.

Origin From the Bible, Jeremiah 13:23 (King James Version):

“Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.”

Is this true? Well, that particular verse was regarding Judah and Jerusalem and the fact that despite all, that God had done and said they were still not behaving in a manner that pleased him. He’d gotten fed up with it and was about to wreak havoc on them.

But what about this ‘innate nature’ thing? What is our innate nature? Who decides what is innate and what is learned?

I have an addictive personality – smoking, food, networking sites, chatrooms… all sorts… once I get started and am enjoying it, I get carried away… is that innate nature, or lack of discipline “have some and leave some, you can’t dun it all one time” I’ve said that to my children enough times. Am I yearning for a place to belong? Well I’ll figure it out sooner or later.

What I do know, is that people do change! Yes there are certain aspects about us that are consistent, just like the spots on a leopard or the colour of our skin (unless bleaching cream deh bout or you have alopecia). However, people are influenced by so many aspects of life what they read, see or hear… by people they respect and dislike… from experiences they’ve had, etc. All of those things influence us to a point that our thought processes change and with a change of mindset comes a change of behaviour. Not always for the better I admit, but change is change regardless.

The saying… ‘You never miss your water till your well runs dry’ is a good one to explain this. We behave in a manner that seems totally acceptable to us and enjoy all that we have.  It’s not until we realise that our behaviour has caused us to lose out on some of that joy, that we start to examine aspects of our behaviour.  We make changes so that we don’t lose out again. Some people make excuses and blame others and make no changes and just continue to lose until they can see nothing pleasant in their lives.

It’s those that do make changes that we tend to be suspicious of, simply because we adhere to the leopard and spots notion. Then, when that person gets fed up of the suspicion, cuts us out of their lives for being ‘negative’ and against their growing character. We take offense.

Take for instance the five year relationship that has broken up because one or other of the pair has not met the criteria of their role in the relationship. They go their separate ways and the person in question starts to realize the folly of their ways. They do some self searching and make changes. They go back to the ex and ask for a second chance. What happens? They are told… ‘a leopard cannot change it’s spots’. Unfortunately, the majority of these cases are men trying to go back to women and scarring does prevent women from risking their emotions, self esteem and safety a second time. So, she says no, and that same man, embarks on a new relationship and all that work he’s done on himself? Another woman is reaping the benefits. The first woman then resents not only the man, but the woman too.

So what’s the alternative? How do we know that someone has really made that change? How far should we go to give someone a second chance? To be honest, I can’t answer that for anyone else. We can only look into ourselves to find the right answers on an individual basis. I do know that whatever decision we make in these circumstances, we should be prepared to take responsibility of the outcome and not blame others or be resentful towards them.

In this piece, I have use generalized examples, obviously not everyone is the same- experience, self concept, faith, etc., all have a part to play in who we are, how we behave and whether we are stagnant or open to growth. However, there is no denying that people do change. We are not like fire that will burn you if you put your finger in it. Fire wont apologize and it won’t feel guilty. It wont give out less heat the next time. It doesn’t care about you. People care, people make adjustments for those they love. They make atonement for negative behaviour and favourable responses will encourage a change in behaviour and will often stimulate that person to examine their attitude to life. We can either be a part of that, or continue to hold onto to suspicion, which, in the long run, only hurts oneself.

So, What do you think? Enquiring minds want to know!

About BaseeSaka

has written 156 post in this blog.

Having experienced most relationship issues, from dating, cohabiting and parting ways, to long distance relationship, ‘near misses’ and heartbreak; I feel that my years have been filled experiences. Experiences that I am inclined to describe as positive. You can email her at: basee@relationshipplaybook.com

  • I believe that people can and do change, but it takes a revelation from God or some type of life altering event for people to change who they are at their core. The most difficult thing to do is change a habit and we are creatures of habit.