The Value of Self-Control
There is an obvious power struggle taking place in my household. It’s not between my husband and me, and none of our children are involved. It’s between our dogs. Envision a six-year-old, eleven-pound, white, long-haired Chihuahua/Papillion mix with giant brown eyes. He’s Chester, affectionately referred to as Chestnut by the younger kids. Now picture a fourteen-year-old, forty-five-pound fawn boxer with a stubby tail, floppy ears and gray senior-citizen markings. Her name is Lucy, in honor of one of my favorites, Lucille Ball. They make quite an eclectic pair. And, you guessed it, the little fluff ball is in charge.
Chester has little dog syndrome (LDS), a term used to identify a set of traits commonly found in smaller breeds, most of which are annoying: barking, growling, biting. They invoke those behaviors in response to perceived threats as a way of overcoming any deficits due to their small stature. Chester is guilty as charged. His favorite way to terrorize Lucy is to taunt her by guarding a treat he has no intention of eating. Sometimes she outsmarts him by going into another room and creating a commotion. When he jumps up to see what he’s missing, she darts back and snatches the prize.
Until recently, I didn’t realize that people often perpetuate and even encourage this problem. Owners may feel the need to protect small dogs, so they remove them from certain situations, which detaches them from the chance to gain social skills. Also, bad behavior, like jumping on guests or begging for food can be seen as cute from a little dog but annoying or threatening from a big one. As a result, we might overlook the misdeeds of smaller pooches and be more prompt and assertive with bigger breeds. Indeed, dog trainer Cesar Millan’s line at the beginning of episodes of TV’s The Dog Whisperer is spot on: “I rehabilitate dogs. I train people.”
This brings me to my point: Each adult is responsible for his or her own actions—small and large—from pet ownership to his own salvation. In my opinion, once you reach a certain age the misfortunes of your past should no longer contribute to your present or future. If we let the past control our actions, we may well display a human form of LDS. For example, we might make excuses for our bad behavior, engage in backbiting, and worse.
Of course, admitting our faults places us in a state of vulnerability, but God gives us the tools to be emotionally competent. We can admit our wrongs to one another and feel better for having done so. Consider 2 Timothy 1:7: “For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.”