May I state the obvious? People react to other people, situations, and issues on the basis of their perceptions of those people, situations, and issues, and not necessarily on the basis of reality.
I mean no particular disrespect to either breed, human or canine, but in that regard I think we humans generally operate a little below the level of man’s best friend.
If you meet a dog in the park, thrust your hand out to pet the cute little beast, all the while sincerely holding nothing but love, warmth, kindness, and the very best of intentions in your human heart, BUT he nevertheless perceives your action as threatening, you may well draw back a bloody nub. He reacts, you see, not so much to reality as to his perception of reality.
And he may be dead wrong.
If he’s an exceptionally intelligent canine, he may later “learn” that his estimation of you and your intentions was flawed. Maybe you’ll go on to help him reach a more realistic conclusion as you reach down more carefully to pet him with your remaining hand.
Or, probably more likely, he may run over the hill before you have an opportunity to change his mistaken opinion of you, and he may be even quicker to sink his teeth into the next human who quite innocently reaches out her hand. He may well go on to his reward in doggy heaven a decade or two (in dog years) later still firmly wedded to the erroneous opinion that all humans who reach down to pet him are mean, malicious, mutt-haters. Now, he would be absolutely wrong, but he would believe deeply in his error and die not knowing that his perceptions were completely unfounded in reality.
I wish this sort of thing was only a problem with dogs. But I’m afraid that we humans are often just as witless and wrong when we react quickly, and very often poorly, just on the basis of our all-too-fallible perceptions. How hard it is for someone else who doesn’t share our fouled up view of a particular person, situation, or issue to try to help us see reality when everything from our backgrounds, our upbringing, our unfortunate experiences, all the way to our lack of sleep and the state of our digestion, conspires to give us flawed perceptions and, to some degree large or small, blind us to reality.
Then you know what happens, don’t you? We go around biting folks who don’t deserve to be bitten. And then too often they go off and bite someone else.
The fact that we are such poor judges both of reality and of the motives of our neighbors is one significant reason Jesus warned us not to spend time judging and criticizing those around us. You and I are very poor judges.
Our dogs may not always be great judges either, but I personally would trust a dog with a good nose a lot farther than I’d trust a biting, barking, snapping, ill-tempered human.
Copyright 2012 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.