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Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. — Ephesians 4:31,32
There is a story told about “two dogs” which battle within us. Some say it’s an Indian legend . . . some say it’s an old fable told long ago . . . but the story makes the rounds, and also makes a lot of sense.
As the story goes, when a youngster comes to the old sage leader and asks why he feels so angry at unfair treatment, the older one explains, “It is as if there are two dogs inside of you. One is always good, peaceful, and loyal. He will fight when the time is right—but not until or unless it is warranted. The other dog is mean and full of anger. He is always ready for a fight . . . and this anger keeps him from clear thinking or happiness. These two dogs often struggle—but only one can win.” The child then asks, “Which one wins?” The answer? “The one you feed!”
The answer, “the one you feed”, often takes the hearer by surprise . . . but it is an answer which is rarely argued against. That’s because we’ve all been there, and we know the truth in that statement.
So the invitation is there for us. We are invited to feed the “good dog” or the “mean dog”.
Since the proper answer to an invitation is to R.S.V.P., I’ve taken those letters and used them to craft a response to each invitation.
If you decide to feed the “mean dog”, knowing that will make him strong and victorious against the “good dog” . . . here’s how you “feed” that meanness:
R—Rehearse. Rehearse your grievance time and again. Go over and over it in your mind, often thinking of nothing else. Repeatedly ask yourself, “if only ____”, “what if ______”, and “why did ______”.
S—Stop. Stop your normal routines of the disciplines of sleep, exercise, diet, fellowship with friends, prayer, meditation, going to church. Shoulder worry and doubt.
V—Voice. Voice your disgust and panic to everyone who will listen and agree. Vent your anger on Facebook.
P—Practice. Practice what you will say to the guilty parties if and when you come face-to-face. Put all the blame on them and do not take any time to examine your part, if any, in the circumstance.
Answer the invitation to feed the “mean dog” in these four ways and he will grow, attack, and cause misery.
But if you decide to feed the “good dog”, knowing that will make him strong and victorious against the “mean dog” . . . here’s how you “feed” that dog:
R—Repeat. Repeat God’s promises. Memorize Scripture, especially those verses which express God’s faithfulness, sovereignty, and justice.
S—Stand. Stand strong and still, having confidence in the power of God to sustain you through this season. Search your heart for your own sin which might have affected this situation. Stay connected. Seek to serve others–in your family, you church, your military unit, your community.
V—Voice. Voice praise to God. Sing praise to God. Count your blessings, and voice gratitude for God’s provisions.
P—Pray. Pray often. Pray to God, who understands, forgives, loves, restores, . . . and redeems!
In the past I have “fed the mean dog” just as often as I have “fed the good dog”. I have mentally made a litany of grievances—justifying my bitterness. I have let my anger consume my thoughts and my schedule. I have spread my angry words throughout my network of friends—quickly picking up the telephone and explaining to them all the gory details and laying out my case for my innocence. I have all-too-often forgotten to take into account my own sinfulness and have abandoned all grace. No grace . . . no forgiveness. When I do this it brings truth to the saying, “anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”
But thanks to the love and grace of Jesus Christ, I am better now at “feeding the good dog”. When unfair situations arise I am more likely to be still and dig into the Bible for comfort and wisdom. I am careful to fill my mind and heart (and my house) with praise music—and I especially enjoy the old hymns during these times. I examine the situation for thankfulness and gratitude to surface in my heart—and in my words. I look for blessings . . . I have learned to be content. I am quick to see Satan as the enemy, and to recognize when he is at work stirring up trouble. I pray. I ask to grow in love. And I ask for grace to forgive. I pray for those who have offended me. It’s difficult to be angry towards someone for whom you are praying. I have learned that “hurt people hurt people” and look for ways to grow in compassion towards those who have hurt me.
Are you angry during this deployment? No doubt there are injustices—life is like that with misunderstandings, slander, missed opportunities, poor choices, betrayal. But I would encourage you to R.S.V.P. to the invitation to feed the good dog.
Remember, God is faithful. “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. . . Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse . . . Do not repay anyone evil for evil . . . Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord . . . Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:12,14,17,19,21.
Questions to Share:
1. Tell your spouse about one time when you were angry and chose to feed that anger. What was the result of that choice?
2. Tell your spouse about one time when you were angry and chose to “be patient in affliction.” What did you see God do as a result of your endurance?