Even so, I have come to love the deer as a part of the overall experience of living here, and for the most part, I enjoy living alongside of them. However, my dog, Buster, does not feel the same way...
We adopted Buster a few years ago from a rescue shelter. At the time, he was completely malnourished and very weak. He never barked, he never got riled up about anything, and the only thing he seemed to get excited about at all was a good game of fetch. Even then, he wouldn't whine for me to throw the ball, but he would place it in my lap and sit expectantly. He was very expressive with his face, but never vocal. I honestly thought he was mute.
I thought wrong. (So very wrong.)
Once he started gaining weight and strength, he found his voice. Squirrels were his formidable enemies, followed closely by doves. If they entered the yard unwelcome, the whole neighborhood would know. He was a guard dog in every sense of the word, and he had a big bark to match.
When we moved here with the deer, I thought he would lose his mind. Turns out, I'm the one losing my mind constantly dealing with his barking.
The problem with his barking is that it does absolutely nothing. It literally serves no purpose.
The deer know that he's fenced in and can't harm them. As long as they stay a certain amount of feet back from the fence, they're totally free to eat flowers and poop as they please. And, it's not as if he's alerting me that there is something in my yard I didn't know about. I already know the deer are there, because they're everywhere.
So now instead of sweet Buster's barking being an informative tool (Hey Mom, something's here!) or a defensive tool (Here Mom, I'll scare them for you!), it is just a big bunch of noise and a giant pain in the butt.
Sweet friends, I worry that many of us are "barking" at things for no reason. There are "deer" all around us that we consider threats that are actually not doing anything other than living in the space that is rightfully theirs too. Does this make any sense?
Instead of saving the day, we are making noise that serves no purpose.
Hey guys, someone is here with an opinion!--We know that. Opinionated people are everywhere.
Hey guys, I am going to "scare back" this person with my noise!--Well, probably not, because they are protected by miles and miles of physical space *AND* the fact that you have no idea who that person even is, nor will you ever meet them. You are not a threat. You are just noisy. And they are still going to poop on your grass.
I used to be so bad about barking unnecessarily. I still don't get it right all of the time. Sometimes something seems threatening when it's not, and we misread the situation. I get that; I really do.
One of the better realizations that I ever came to was that whenever I got worked up, I needed to make this distinction:
Does this opinion offend my online persona or my actual person?
If there is a threat to your person, fight it. If there is a threat to your feelings, you don't have to.
There are a lot of "issues" going on in the world, and I have a general opinion about many of them. Some of the issues might be easy for people to guess my leanings toward, and some of them might surprise people. All of them are mine. None of them are necessarily threatened by people who don't agree with me. Almost all of these things can coexist with the person on the other side of the fence.
Guys, some of us are barking at things that aren't even in our own yards--you know what I mean? Sometimes we get so offended by things that aren't even our things!
How long you should date a person before you marry them, how old you should be when you get married, how many children is too many...
How a mom feeds her baby, how late she lets her kids stay up, home school or private school or public school, athletics or robotics or music or none...
How a person dresses, how a person eats, how a person decorates...
One of the best lines I've heard in a while is if it's not yours, don't take it.
This does not suggest that we ignore injustice because 'it's not happening to us.' If you personally witness someone else being threatened unlawfully or unethically, take it. That is now yours, friend.
But do you actually know someone who is offended by raw cotton stalks as décor? No? Then leave it where it is. You don't have to pick that up! Yes? You're one of the lucky ones, man! Do what my dog and the deer cannot do. Quit barking and open a dialogue. Gain some perspective. Do you have to agree? No. Will it change your opinion? Maybe, maybe not. Will it change the "level of threat?" I really, really think so.
I've found it surprising in my own life how much I can sympathize with and understand another person's argument without necessarily making it my own. I think the biggest lie we've been given as a society is that we have to pick a side for literally everything. There are many opportunities where I can live somewhere, very peaceably, right in the middle. I can understand very clearly the needs of both the deer and the dog and work to serve each of them fairly, within my means.
At the end of the day the earth is one big yard and we are all entitled to share it. Don't mistake our co-inhabitants for enemies. Don't always mistake disagreements for threats. There are real threats in the yard to be certain. But the biggest danger of all *just might be* that none of us are going to know when the real threats show up if we've already tuned out all of the barking.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:18)
Lord, help us.