Dog Analogy # 1. After the second time of being bitten by the dog, no wonder I sat cautiously in the chair as the bathroom door opened to allow the dog to wander free. I’ve visited the Neevel’s home on a number of past occasions with no wounds to show for it, but ever since Fred’s hospice care, Raymond has been ever vigilant by his side, challenging most well wishers. In my two previous visits, Raymond displayed his ever passionate commitment to protect Fred by nipping at my calf. Giving Fred a hug on my way out was apparently a bit too aggressive and Raymond shared his concern with me as he bit into my lower leg. No worries, I was able to nurse my leg back to health the following couple of weeks 🙂
After the second bite, I found my self once again approaching their front door with a bit of uneasiness. Teddi, so graciously, put the dog in the bathroom for a while, but his consistent whimpering broke through my defenses. I told Teddi it would probably be safe to let him out.
So, out Raymond came, sniffing and assessing the situation. His demeanor at this point was nothing but friendly and dogesque, but I still sat there stone like. My legs were stiff with anxiety each time the dog tramped by me. At any moment I suspected I might make a threatening move and be the unwilling chew toy he had designated me to be.
It was in that moment that I realized that Raymond and I reflected what so many broken relationships experience. Due to his first nip, I was nervous the following visit. The second nip made me even more anxious. After two nips, I kept my distance and wanted to curl up on the chair so as to keep my dangling yet precious legs from the pit.
Possibly, Raymond had no intention of hurting me at this point. Maybe, I was no longer a threat. Maybe, I had nothing to worry about, but due to those two simple moments I withdrew from him.
The tongue can bite. Within our relationships, when someone’s tongue is used to bite us, it places stress on the relationship. All of a sudden there is a certain level of anxiety each time the other person comes around. There may not be any immediate threat of their bite, but we may be living in constant fear due to the potential. After all, we weren’t exactly sure why we got bit the times before.
Another negative reality occurs. Our anxiety and withdrawal communicate negatively to the other person. They sense our withdrawal. They sense our uneasiness. They notice that when they walk in the room, we tend to move to the opposite side of the room. They notice we go out of our way to avoid conversation and interaction. They may even say they’re sorry, but their presence still produces anxiety. Yet, when they see us talking comfortably to others, they struggle to process the reasons.
Of course, this withdrawal only further exacerbates the ever increasing division. They may never “bite” you again, but those moments of pain have lasting ramifications.
Oh how our words can hurt! They destroy relationships.
Dog Analogy # 2. My parents left their dog, Ginger, with us as they abandoned us for the Christmas holiday. By the end of the second day, Ginger had nipped at 5 of the 6 of us – and a couple guests as well. This little dog had brought terror into our home. I literally walked around the home seeing everyone curled up on couches and bunk beds so as to avoid the little monster . . . okay, that’s a bit much, but one of the boys’ friends did literally sit up on the kitchen counter to avoid being down by the ankle biter.
One evening, as I reached over the couch to pick up Ginger to take her to bed, she nipped at me. Yea! That’s not going to happen. This is my home and I’m in charge here. I’m the alpha dog in this scenario. So, I grabbed her snout and yelled that I was in charge. After a couple of smacks on her nose, my dominance was established and she wet herself in fear. Of course, for the following four days, she didn’t want to come near me either. Hmmm? I wonder. I also had to turn and smile at Molly as she observed this outburst of anger/aggression on my part. I really wasn’t mad, but had to show who was boss. I’m so glad she gets me.
So then, how do I connect this to the analogy above? There is a reason besides my sharing a story in which I feel like I won. These two stories point to the two possible manners in which we respond to the “bites” of others. We either withdraw, resulting in further distance in the relationship, or we attack, resulting in further distance in the relationship. Either way, injured, the relationship limps along.
Be careful with your words. Biting words can destroy.