Why Do We Show Love to Our Pets and Not One Another?
Why do we humans love our pets so much? Many animal lovers may think this is a simple answer, given in the form of, “Because they’re perfect, obviously!” And while I tend to agree, (anyone who knows me, knows I love animals – oftentimes to the point of obsession) I cannot objectively agree that animals are perfect; because in truth, animals are flawed. They make mistakes. They have weaknesses and temptations, just like humans. So why is it so easy for us to look past their flaws? Love them despite their flaws? At times, we even love them more because of their flaws. Why?
Earlier this month I was working outside with my dog, praising every little thing he did, interacting with him as if he understands my language, explaining situations and the reasons we were doing things (a regular day), when I caught myself apologize to my dog over a small mistake I made. I do this often.
Going back to anyone who knows me, along with knowing I am an animal lover, they also most likely know that apologies are not my strong suit. I’m stubborn and willful, and often under the illusion that I am always right. This combination doesn’t make for the best apologies when I have wronged someone. So, as I laughed at myself over the irony of me apologizing to a dog who doesn’t understand the concepts of sin, mistakes or forgiveness, I began to ponder this phenomenon.
My dog doesn’t hold my sins against me. Regardless of the apology I make, he loves me and is loyal to me. Humans on the other hand, they hold onto wrongdoings. They focus on mistakes. They often end relationships over these wrongdoings and mistakes. At least, I know I’m guilty of that. I have very little patience for my fellow humans; I often find myself being judgmental. I’m harsh and I’m often mean. Yet here I am apologizing to my dog, communicating to him things he doesn’t understand, giving him grace for his mistakes and showering him in constant love and praise in the hopes that he will give me grace for my own mistakes. Why? During this recent pondering, I believe I have deduced at least some reasons behind this, and it comes down to my perception of understanding.
My dog relies on me. He doesn’t understand human feelings and situations. There is so much my dog cannot understand in the big scheme of things. So, in order to compensate for his lack of understanding, I overcompensate by showering him in love and praise, oftentimes for just existing. And in this, I think it is my way of trying to communicate to my dog what he means to me. Yet when it comes to my fellow humans? I hardly follow any of the same protocol, and why should I? When humans actually can communicate to one another. But I think perhaps that is part of the problem. We are able to communicate, so perhaps we put the burden of understanding and communication on the other person. We think the other person should or does understand our feelings and thoughts, or our circumstance or situation, and in that way give ourselves an excuse for treating them poorly.
Can you imagine how different the world could be if we all treated our fellow humans like we treat our pets? Can you imagine if we did not pretend to understand one another? Because, in truth, we don’t. We don’t know each other’s stories, struggles, and hidden hardships, and the other person doesn’t know or understand our own. We may have an idea or a clue, but only we know our own individual situations. Can you imagine how relationships and interactions would change if instead of assuming understanding, we overcompensated for each other’s lack of it by showering each other in love and grace – like we do our pets?
To me, if there’s anything that is clear in the world right now, it’s that we humans are not understanding one another. We pick sides, we shout, we assume, we judge, and we hate. We talk past one another trying to make the other see our point of view. We get angry, we get our feelings hurt, and in retaliation, hurt another’s feelings. And then we go home, and we see our beloved pet, and we don’t take out our human frustration on them. Instead, we show them love and care. Do we even recognize the disparity? I don’t think that many of us do any of this on purpose. But I do think many of us are guilty of it in some shape or form.
I see a world that is angry and hurting right now. And it seems like everyone is waiting on someone else to apologize, or be kind, or take responsibility. But the truth is, that may never come. We do not have any control over what another person does. But we do have control over our own apology, the kindness we show and the responsibility we take. The only way to even begin to heal a hurting world is to quit waiting on someone else to do it. It starts with us. And for me, maybe it starts with treating others with as much kindness and love as I treat my dog.