I was driving down Hamilton Road earlier this week when I saw a common occurrence in a new way. I was following a large SUV and out from the driver's side window appeared a dog, enjoying the wind as it blew his way. The only interruption to this moment of bliss came when he saw someone on the sidewalk. The dog would then bark at each person he saw walking down the road.
This was really nothing out of the ordinary until I began to consider the relative scale of it all. You see, it was a very small dog poking his body out of a very large vehicle. Now I never caught a glimpse of the driver, but based on the stickers on the rear glass indicating that were a retired Army Ranger who had served our nation on foreign soil, size did not matter. I was struck. Why all the barking? Who did this dog think he was protecting? Were there any real threats to him or his owner on the street that day?
Of course, the answers to these questions return us to biology. It was Harvard professor and psychologist William Bradford Cannon who coined the term fight or flight response. It has since been classified as the acute stress syndrome and I can hear my father now describing the catecholamine horomones as the actual triggers released in the bloodstream. Either way, this little dog was displaying this classic and natural response perfectly, however silly it seemed to all of us onlookers.
We humans often find ourselves in situations of fight or flight. But, while it is silly and even comical to see a tiny dog barking away, I am struck by how damaging and destructive it can be when we are not aware of what we are doing.
It is one thing when the situations call for it. But, does every situation demand fighting or fleeing? I think not. Most days and most moments call for grace and peace. I am thinking now of snarky comments and behind-the-back name-calling and gossip. To be honest, it happens to often but most of the time it is excused because of some perceived threat posed by the other. "You should have seen what said or did." Sometimes the response is the opposite. People will withdraw instead of addressing the person. Grudges are easy to hold...if you don't ever speak to the person again and share your feelings.
I think Jesus was thinking about much more than literal slaps on the cheek when he said, "If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also" (Luke 6:29). I think Jesus wants to ride down the road of life not barking at everything as though they were a threat to us. Fight or Flight might be natural, but that does not mean it is always right. Aren't we more than just biology? Aren't we more than some pre-programmed response? Are we not created in the great likeness of the One who is grace and love and mercy? I pray I would live that way.
Grace and Peace to you.