Wag more, bark less

A Christian Science perspective.

This saying may already be familiar to dog lovers, and it's also becoming familiar to Americans as part of their bumper-sticker philosophy. To me, it expresses a lovely ideal. It connotes that a happier, more unconditional approach outweighs a confrontational or raucous one. Wouldn't it be great if we could adopt this viewpoint for more of our interactions?

A powerful acknowledgment in support of this perspective comes from "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" in which the author, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote, "All of God's creatures, moving in the harmony of Science, are harmless, useful, indestructible" (p. 514). Recognizing that this applies to any discordant or uncomfortable situation helps defuse its harshness, regardless of whether it involves animals or people.

Many years ago, when I was working for a sales firm and going door to door, I encountered a barking dog that was lunging at me from its tether. Although startled, I saw no obvious danger and went on to my next contact. Completing that task, I noticed that the dog was now off its chain, barking wildly, and had situated itself between me and my car.

Standing frozen in place, I prayed. Striving to see my indestructible, spiritual nature and the dog's harmlessness as one of God's creatures, I began slowly to make my way to the car. Once inside, I sat quietly for a moment with my eyes closed, fighting back my anger at the careless owner. Being grateful that I hadn't been harmed, and feeling calmer, I then looked out the car window and saw the dog wagging its tail at me. I realized that this happy dog just wanted to play. What I originally thought was a scary animal to be avoided was really just a sweet pet, enthusiastically looking for a friend.

That lesson of mistaken identity has stayed with me. What I learned was this: To judge a situation purely by the picture presented may be to completely misconstrue it. Seeking a higher view – one that reveals a safer and sweeter picture – can be not only more productive, but more progressive as well. As Jesus put it, stated in John's Gospel, "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment" (7:24).

This isn't just wishful thinking or self-willed manipulation. It's a spiritual effort to look beyond appearances. It begins with a willingness to see the useful, harmless, and indestructible nature of all those involved in any circumstance. This willingness comes through prayer, the kind of prayer that sets aside human opinion and humbly seeks a divine perspective. And it can be prayed right on the spot – just as I did when confronted by what I thought was a mean dog.

Something else I've learned over time is the importance of challenging my own desire to "bark." Prayerfully seeing that I also possess the same harmlessness that I'm striving to see in others can defuse a potentially confrontational situation even before it starts. This involves recognizing the difference between righteous judgment and self-righteous judgment. Coming at a situation with this perspective doesn't make me vulnerable or helpless, but empowers me with compassion and spiritual authority. This reveals my own and others' God-given indestructibility.

Both viewpoints – seeing yourself as well as others as useful, harmless, indestructible – are normal for everyone, since the Bible declares that "God ... worketh in you, both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13). The Apostle Paul, who wrote that to the Christian church at Philippi, knew from experience that God is, and does, all good. This redemptive insight saved Paul from harming others and put him on a useful path of spreading the gospel to all the world. And his ministry is still viable today in reminding us of the saving and healing power of God, through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Even though a bit whimsical, "Wag more, bark less," has an expectation of harmony, and even joy, at its base. It can be a hopeful reminder of the natural capacity of each of us to see ourselves and others from a gentler, more inspired point of view – a viewpoint that is upheld in the Bible, explained in Christian Science, and even found on bumpers!

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