Psalm 59

They come each evening growling like dogs, roaming the city. (59:7)

Recently, while returning to the car after music lessons, my children and I heard a meowing cat – really more of a kitten – near the car. My daughter and one of my sons walked towards the sound and the cat came right out of the bushes and walked up to them. No collar, no identification. I love dogs, but am fairly indifferent to cats. On top of that, it was after 6:00 so the Humane Society was closed, and I know cats, being independent creatures, can take care of themselves fairly well. My daughter wanted to do something, find someone to take care of the cat, but in addition to the already mentioned reasons, I was hungry and I wanted to go home. Had it been a dog, I probably would have done the same thing – I would not have wanted to take it home, 6-7 miles away, in case its owner was looking for it. However, I would have felt badly about leaving a dog. My daughter, being more sensitive than I, felt badly about leaving the cat.

As much as I love dogs, there is something fear inducing about a stray dog. A hissing stray cat will not provoke much of a reaction in me (although I certainly wouldn’t approach it), but a growling dog brings up a primal fight or flight reaction.

This is not a surprising reaction. It is an empirically smart reaction, perfectly normal and expected. But if you think about it, it is the animal that I feel a connection with and have strong positive feelings for that potentially provokes fear, while the animal that I somewhat dislike that prompts feelings of indifference.

Isn’t this also the case with people? It is the people we have a connection with and feel closest to who have the power to evoke the strongest negative emotions in us – anger, fear, hatred, jealously, and disgust. Such emotions are generally undesirable and get in the way of maintaining a healthy relationship with our spouse, parents, siblings, or children. When those emotions come up it is worth keeping this in mind in order not be be over reactive – ‘fight or flight’ is proper when confronting a growling dog; ‘sit and have a cup of coffee and talk’ is a better reaction when dealing with an unhappy spouse!

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