Turtles are commonly purchased as gifts, but sometimes they give people more trouble than they bargained for. They may even kill their owners. That is because the gentle, cute, and seemingly harmless turtles carry Salmonella, a very deadly kind of bacteria. If a child, an elderly person, or someone whose natural resistance has been lowered due to pregnancy, cancer treatments, or major surgery is exposed to these bacteria, the results can be fatal. For this reason, it is now illegal to sell small turtles in the United States.

There are other reasons why turtles would not make good pets. For one, they can bite when you get too close to them. Second, their shells are hard and rigid unlike the soft, warm fur of a cat or dog. These characteristics explain why very few people would want to hug a turtle.

Some people are like turtles. You can’t get too close to them, or they will hurt you. They are stiff and rigid like the turtle’s shell. They never bend and are inflexible to the slightest changes. Bitter, angry, and harsh words flow from their mouths and infect others. Even when they try to do good, they often do it in the wrong way. Their lack of grace keeps others at arm’s length.

Others have a kind, gracious spirit. People are drawn to them like magnets. Do you know why? It’s because we would rather embrace something that is warm and soft than something which is cold and rigid. Which kind of person do you want to be?

Turtles may be cute, but you wouldn’t want to hug them. Are you the kind of person who sends people running in the opposite direction because of your personality or temper? Pray about your shortcomings, and God will help you practice speaking with grace and showing patience toward others. Before long, others will be drawn to the warmth of your character.

Devotional by Dr. James A. Scudder