Boiling Bullfrogs: Our Lost Generation

Having spent many years studying finance and accounting in college and working with numbers all week, there is one thing that I have come to believe. Most of these self proclaimed experts that fill the airwaves and every bookstore, are full of malarkey. They are all show.

They try to pass of cheap everyday advice as revolutionary and life changing, and do so by pasting on a hefty price tag on seminars, books, and DVDs. I approach them with caution, and rarely do I find the time spent reading their work worthwhile. Overtime, the best advice that can be given to someone when it comes to finances is a simple one: self discipline.

There is one Personal Finance – Self Help guru who is becoming quite popular on the internet of late; his name is Rick Edelman ( He has written quite a few books, hosted a radio show, and holds countless seminars across the country. I took the time to read some of his works, and honestly, I find it just the same repackaged stuff we have been hearing for years.

Yet there was something that caught me on his website. He wrote an article where he detailed what he called the “Boiling Frog Syndrome”. According to Edelman, there is a strange phenomenon that scientists have discovered with bullfrogs. Apparently, some semi-twisted scientist decided to test and document how frogs dealt with change in water temperature. After trapping several hundred, he had them relocated to his lab.

Once there, his experiment was simple. He split the frogs into two groups. On a burner, he brought a large pot of water to near boiling. Without considering the obvious cruelty, he would grab a frog, pick it up, walk over to the pot, and toss it in. He recorded the frog’s response.

There is not much surprise here, but when the frog was tossed into the near boiling water, it almost as quickly jumped right out. The frog obviously knew the large pot was not where it wanted to be, and broke all records getting out.

Where the surprise came, was his experiments with the second grouping of frogs. He took a second pot, and merely warmed up the water. He then went and quickly put a frog in the water. The frog stayed put. After a few minutes he raised the temperature ten degrees, with no reaction. Every few minutes he raised the temperature again. Ten degrees, wait…then ten degrees more.

Eventually the temperature was raised to boiling, and the frogs died one by one. Never once did the frogs try to jump out of the pot, when the temperature was raised slowly, bit by bit…ten degrees at a time. The scientist theorized that the frogs never really realized that with each passing minute they got closer and closer to trouble. With each rise in temperature the frogs acclimated, and never panicked.

Edelman theorized that it is like that in the financial world. We slowly and without realizing degrade our financial situation without ever realizing it. We take on small chunks of debt, a piece at a time, never fully realizing it until we are caught off guard and off balance by an incredibly precarious and dangerous situation. With each increase in debt we get closer and closer to trouble but we acclimate and never panic.In this I can agree with Edelman. This would also explain, why with each raise at work, I don’t feel like I am any better off… for with each raise I take on a bit more spending, before I realize that I am no longer ahead.

I also see the ‘boiling the bullfrog syndrome’ in the church. Over the last twenty or thirty years, something in our environment has dramatically changed. Somewhere, not so long ago, we allowed ourselves to down play the importance of being a part of a faith community. Little by little we started to let the secular world invade the portion of our week which was supposed to be holy. We started to say, it was okay if you wanted to sleep late on Sundays, or go to the beach, or let your kids play on the travelling soccer team on Sunday. Before we knew it, a whole generation disappeared.

A whole generation is closer and closer to trouble, but they are acclimating and there is no panic. In the end, this generation is no different from those frogs in the pot,…oblivious and panic free. Ultimately, the truth is unless we embrace the responsibility of our faith, nothing will change. We have a responsibility as people of faith for our community.

We need to be the people that let others know the water they are sitting in is seeing its temperature rise. We need to remind them of how important our family of faith is. We need to remind them that a world without this place, is not how things were meant to be. We need to be those that remind others that this place is for them, and within our doors they can find a purpose, direction, call, and a faith that will not, and cannot be provided or received elsewhere. This is the responsibility of our faith.

It begins here and now. It begins by reminding every single person that walks through our doors that they are important, they are wanted, and they are home. It begins with both an acknowledgment, and an offer. It begins with acknowledging that we have a place for them, and that Christ’s love, joy, peace and Grace is here for the taking.

Each Sunday, we begin our service with the passing of the peace, to remind each other and ourselves of just this fact. Our service does not begin until we have the opportunity to celebrate and remember that truth. Maybe this is a start in reclaiming our lost generation.

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