Perspective Shifts and “The Pout-Pout Fish”

We read a lot of children’s books in our house. One of my longstanding favorites is “The Pout-Pout Fish” by Deborah Diesen. The Pout-Pout Fish follows the tale (or should I say “tail”) of an Eeyore-esque fish with big pouty lips. As he gloomily encounters his underwater friends, they each urge him to try being a little more pleasant. But the Pout-Pout Fish is stuffed to the gills with excuses for why he is incapable of change:

“I hear what you’re saying, but it’s just the way I am.”
“I’d like to be more friendly, but it isn’t up to me.”
“But I haven’t any choice. Take a look and you’ll see why.”
“With a mouth like mine, I am destined to be glum.”

He follows each of these excuses with the same refrain:

“I’m a pout-pout fish
With a pout-pout face,
So I spread the dreary-wearies
All over the place.

Poor Mr. Fish. He is stuck believing that just because he looks pouty, his personality has to match. I can’t help but think how often human beings wind up stuck in a similar merry-go-round of melancholy. 

It is so easy to dismiss our need to change for the better because we tell ourselves, “It’s just how I am.” It may be true that we are how we are, but the Lord has given each of us the precious gift of free will. Sure, we are naturally inclined to certain negative outlooks or behaviors, but we can choose to do better. We just might need a little nudge to help us change. 

Spoiler alert–that’s just what happens to the Pout-Pout Fish. A new fish arrives on the scene and sees Mr. Fish gloomily blubbing away on the ocean floor. She swims right up to him and “plants a kiss upon his pout and then she swims away.” The Pout-Pout Fish is shocked at first and then is struck with a new and wonderful realization. He doesn’t have to be a Pout-Pout Fish. He can be a Kiss-Kiss Fish instead! Now, instead of spreading dreary-wearies, he chooses to spread cheery-cheeries by sharing smooches with his friends instead of pouts. 

Perhaps the lesson we can take away from this sweet and silly story is that our shortcomings may well be stepping stones to something better, if only we choose to look at them in a better light and use them for a greater good. Struggling with self-control could eventually lead to helping others develop healthier relationships with food or finances or the like. Lacking a verbal filter could translate to gossip and tactless comments or it could lead to unabashedly affirming people who cross our path. An active imagination could result in spouting falsehoods or in uplifting acts of creative expression. 

We have a choice in how we use what we’ve been given. A perceived flaw could very well be a gift.  After all, the Lord wouldn’t allow our flaws to exist if He didn’t know there was some way they could help us on our spiritual journeys. We are indeed fearfully and wonderfully made. It’s our job to take what we’ve been given and use it as positively as possible–even the parts that we deem a little “fishy.”

Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked. (John 5: 8-9)

About Justine Buss

Justine Buss and her family are currently based in Pittsburgh. She was born and raised in Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania and studied theatre and English at Muhlenberg College. She spent her professional career working with young people in theatre and is now a full time stay at home mom and pastor’s wife. She stays in touch with her theatre roots by directing Christmas and New Church Day pageants, helping with school plays, and taking an improv class. She also enjoys singing, creative writing (including the occasional murder mystery party game), bargain hunting, and going on adventures with her family. She is grateful for the expressive outlet that New Christian Woman provides. It's so good to take the time to reflect on and write about the things that are on our minds and hearts.

3 thoughts on “Perspective Shifts and “The Pout-Pout Fish”

  1. The Pout-Pout Fish reminds me of a childhood favorite that has lasted over the generations – The Little Engine That Could. The little engine didn’t say, “I can’t.” Instead the little engine said, “I think I can. I think I can.” In my childhood we weren’t allowed to say, “I can’t.” We had to say, “I think I can” or “I’ll try.” So, we couldn’t wallow in “this is just how I am.”

    It struck me reading your message that sinking into “this is just how I am” is the downward path and the Lord calls us to ask His help to work to follow to a higher path – the narrow path that leads to heaven.

    1. Absolutely! I love how the best children’s literature echoes good spiritual practices.

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