Sometimes I envy dogs. I’m speaking of dogs with good homes, mind you. Such dogs have it made. They are fed, petted, walked, and played with every single day—and they do virtually nothing to deserve it. Oh sure, they provide companionship, they guard the house when we’re gone, they fetch the paper, or they bark when a stranger comes to the door. But other than that, most dogs don’t do an ounce of real work—unless they fall into the category of “working dogs,” like sheep herders, drug sniffers, sled pullers, therapy dogs, etc.
The primary reason I envy dogs is because they are exceptionally wise. In his book, How to Argue and Win Every Time, Gerry Spencer puts it this way: “The wisdom of my dog is the product of his inability to conceal his wants.” How true that is!
When dogs want to go outside, for example, they’ll stand by the door and keep fussing until someone lets them out. When dogs aren’t feeling well, they don’t conceal this fact. Instead, they droop their head and go lie down in the corner or under a table. When dogs need affection, they tell you by plopping their heads on your lap and looking at you with those pleading eyes until you give in and pet them. If only we humans were a little more like Fido. If only we were better at revealing our wants.
Children are pretty good at revealing their wants. I was in a grocery store checkout line once. Behind me was a young mother and her small son. As soon as he saw the candy display, his eyes got real big and, pointing to one of the candy bars, he announced, “I want that, Mommy.” He had clearly expressed his want. His mother tried to distract him, but he was persistent. Finally, she said, “You can’t have that. It costs money.” To which the little boy replied, “Use your credit card!” I thought, “How quickly they learn!”
If we don’t reveal our wants appropriately to others, then they have to try to guess what we want. And they might
guess wrong. When this happens, we end up with dialogues such as these:
“But I thought you wanted to go away for the weekend.” “No, I would have preferred a quiet weekend at home.”
“Why do we have to go to that restaurant again?” “But I thought you liked that restaurant.”
“How come we never have fish for supper?” “I thought you didn’t like fish.”
There is a real danger in concealing our wants from others: we run the risk of concealing our wants even from ourselves. Several years ago I was in a bad space. I had too much work to do, I was discouraged, and I was exhausted. I went to see a counselor. She was great. In the midst of our conversations, she asked, “If you had two days completely to yourself, what would you want to do?” I had to think for a bit because I hadn’t thought about MY wants in a long time. I was too busy trying to meet the wants of others.
But I finally said, “Sleep.” She said, “Okay. The first day you sleep as much as you want. You can stay in your pj’s all day if you choose. Now, what do you want to do on the second day?” Slowly, I began to name some things… I’d like to see a good movie… I’d like to read a novel… I’d like to go out to dinner with a friend or two… I’d like to visit the wild animal rescue shelter in the park…” And the list went on. The counselor had gotten me back in touch with my own wants. In future sessions, we figured out how I could work some of my wants into my regular schedule.
There’s another reason why it’s important to stay in touch with our wants. It can make us more sensitive to the needs and wants of others. In addition, It’s one way we get in touch with God, for our deepest wants and desires are put into us by God. If we follow them, they will lead us ultimately to God.
How do you stay in touch with your personal needs and wants?
How do you share these with others?
How sensitive are you to the needs and wants of others?
Has there ever been a dog in your life that imparted wisdom to you?
PS: This week I am facilitating a retreat for the Ursuline Sisters in Youngstown, Ohio. Please say a little prayer for us. I will let them know you are holding them in prayer. This will mean much to them I’m sure, Thank you!
If we follow our deepest wants, needs, and desires we will ultimately find God. I chose Matt Maher’s beautiful song, “I Need You, Lord.”
I welcome your responses to this reflection. Don’t be shy!