Dogs seem to love and accept us in spite of their circumstances or their environment. Unconditionally, they are devoted to an aspect of life we often take for granted. Too frequently, we overlook a fundamental need in our own lives: the need for relationships. More significantly we need relationships that are more personal in the structure of friendship. The critical difference lies in the distinction between a relationship and a friendship. For instance, one might say ” I was in a bad relationship,” however, we seldom would say “I was in a bad friendship” because by definition authentic friendship is benevolent to both parties. A lousy friendship by default would be a bad relationship, thence by definition not friendship at all once played out to its conclusion. What if we all could approach our human relationships in the same way our pets do?
For example, the selection of the appropriate pet is paramount in my experience for most families. The priorities range from a multitude of sources such as height, adult weight, shedding, temperament, social behavior, grooming requirements, coat color, and intelligence. Doesn’t this list sound familiar? We might select our pets predicated on the same criteria we choose our friends! In this instance, we commit the logical fallacy of composition by assuming that what is necessary about one part of something (relationships) has to be applied to all or other parts of it. Our preferences, experiences, personality, and worldview affect us more than we realize.
Here is an example that illustrates this point. A few years ago in a staff meeting, we took a personality test based on ten questions concerning our preferences, behaviors, and activities. The humorous aspect of the quiz was that our answers placed us in one of four different categories of “dog breeds.” The types of dog were: German Shepherd, Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever, and Jack Russell Terrier. To understand our own personalities and preferences, we had to first know the nature of each breed “personality.” German Shepherds are focused, detail oriented and structured in their behavior, while Labradors are extroverted, experience-oriented and “let me show you what we did, where we have been” types. Golden Retrievers are perky, people-pleasing, “happy in their circumstances” and always upbeat in their countenance, but Jack Russell Terriers are diligent, productive, and persistent, with a “just give me the bullet-points and let’s go” mentality. So why can’t we all just get along?
One thing that became apparent to each of us was the difference in our personalities. For the remainder of the day, we wore name tags with our “breed type personality” on it. I am a German Shepherd type so I would begin to address a Jack Russell personality with detailed instructions and then pause, rewind, and then just give them the bullet points. The results were incredible after a few days as our communication and unity improved. Although an amusing anecdote, here is where life application in apologetics, church life, and real life intertwine.
As individuals, we each have unique personalities, experiences, and emotional qualities. Our choice of words and the manner of their delivery is of utmost importance in affecting their reception. As the title of this narrative asks, “Does this Dog Make Me Look Fat?” In other words, when we give an answer will it be “seasoned by humility and grace” (1 Peter 3:15) and reflect the true nature of our intentions? If so, what are those intentions? The apostle Paul sought “to become all things to all people” (1 Corinthians 9:22) so that he “might save some.” By developing a better understanding of the unique individual “breed-type” of our personalities, we can better communicate. Whether Christian, agnostic, or atheist, communication will plant seeds for relationships that can develop seasoned intentionally by authenticity and accountability. Only then can one be “…ready to give an answer to anyone who asks concerning the joy that is in you.” (1 Peter 3:15). For me, it begins with that German Shepherd in the mirror. How about you?