Never Try to Teach a Pig to Sing…

pig-01…it’s a terrible waste of time, and it annoys the pig.

Every Tuesday morning, when I entered the studio for my voice lesson, that saying – or cliche, or mantra, or philosophy – stared me in the face and sunk in to the very depths of my singing soul.  I’m not sure of the intention with which my voice teacher meant it.  But, every student who entered that room saw it, read it, lived it.

I always wondered…am I that pig?  Sure, there were days when I left my voice lesson annoyed, frustrated that I couldn’t sing a particular phrase, or melody, or song, to the satisfaction of my teacher.  It was those days when I felt sure that my time – and everyone else’s – was being wasted.

Yet, I endured to the end, and I have concluded that I can sing better than some, not as good as others.

It was not until years later, as the teacher, that I fully understood the quaint little saying.  As students stood next to the piano, performing vocalises and songs, it was abundantly clear that time was wasted and people were annoyed.  And, while at times I questioned my pedagogical skills, it was abundantly clear when a “pig” was present.  While everyone can sing, not everyone can sing well.  Singing well can’t be taught.  Either you can sing well, or you can’t.

God-given Gifts

There are other things that can’t be taught.  These are things, like singing well, that could probably be labeled as “God-given.”

Athleticism.  Some athletes are superstars because of their natural ability.  Much money is spent trying to obtain that ability, yet it remains elusive for most.  The athlete with God-given talent is, well, a freak.

For example, some people can run fast.  Really fast.  And, while you can be taught to run faster, you can’t be taught to run fast.  Either you can do it, or you can’t.

In the movie Bull Durham, Crash Davis tells the young pitching phenom, Calvin Laloosh, that “You got a gift. When you were a baby, the gods reached down and turned your right arm into a thunderbolt.” And, Crash makes a point…either you can throw hard, or you can’t.  Sure, you can learn to throw harder, but if you don’t have the “gift”, it’s just not the same.

Art.  If you’re an artist – music, painting, sculpting, drawing, and so on – you know well that some have it, and don’t.  Michaelangelo had the gift, as did Mozart and Beethoven.  We all aspire to paint and compose music and such, and many do their best to craft their skill, but no matter how much you study it or work it, the “gift” is not yours.

Intelligence.  Admit it…some people are just intelligent.  I’m talking IQ here.  If you’re like me, you’ve encountered people who are just brilliant.  Knowledge, coherence of thought, application, communicating – all are on a different level, so much so that the rest of us may even have a hard time understanding.  This intelligence isn’t acquired through much reading or study – though you can increase knowledge through much study – it’s a “gift” that some, well, just have.

So, I suppose you insert these categories into the same cliche, and it would work.

“Never try to teach a pig to run fast…it’s a terrible waste of time, and it annoys the pig.”


“Never try to teach a pig to paint…it’s a terrible waste of time, and it annoys the pig.”


“Never try to teach a pig to be intelligent…it’s a terrible waste of time, and it annoys the pig.”

I guess it works.  Maybe.  Maybe not.

What Matters

What about the things that matter, though.  These are the things that, when all else disappears, are left.  These are the things that are basic to life, to us.  Things like faith, hope, and love.  The Apostle Paul tells us

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13 ESV)

These are the things that matter, that are lasting.  If you want to be remembered for anything, let it be that you possessed great faith and hope, and that you loved well.  Athleticism, art, intelligence…these things will fade, and the accomplishments and accolades will be surpassed.  Yet, the ability to have and possess great faith, enduring hope, and true love are worth striving for.

But, can they be taught?

Sure.  We can be taught to make our faith greater, to rest in our hope, and to love everyone.  We do it better than before, but it’s work.  You and I both know, however, that there are those whose lives reflect faith, hope, and love from deep within.  When those people are cut, they bleed faith, hope and love.  When they are oppressed, they exude faith, hope and love.  When they see hurt, they give faith, hope and love.  It’s who they are.

That’s because it’s God-given.  The Apostle Paul tells us again,

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV)

We can be taught to possess faith, hope and love, but it is never fully who we are until it’s given by God.  The old person – who is faith-less, hope-less, and love-less – is replaced by the new person, one who can genuinely possess and demonstrate faith, hope and love.  It’s genuine.  Real.  Our DNA.

It’s God-given.


Filed under Commentary, Theology

3 responses to “Never Try to Teach a Pig to Sing…

  1. Lennie Thompson

    Ah, memories flood my soul of Bro. Banks Hardy…I can hear him now. ” why are you going to the “W” for voice lessons, they will ruin what’s God Given” great post Mark and well understood!

  2. Jan Hubbard

    Thanks for this post.
    I have the same sign in our “computer, sewing , bill paying , etc.” room. It reminds me to put my effort where it can best be used and where it will make the greatest difference.

  3. Hollis Bethune

    I can’t help but think of something that my minister passed along one sermon. Something about how it’s obvious that God loves average people. If he didn’t, there wouldn’t be so many if us. 🙂

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