I’ve been called a lot of not-so-nice things in my relatively short doggie life. Obedience school drop out. Behaviorally challenged. Approved for homes with children ages 12 and above. Yet I find in life’s greatest contradictions lie some of the most intricate sources of wisdom.
Its true of animals and people alike if you ask me. If you hear something enough times, you start to believe it as truth. In a dog’s life, words like stupid, naughty, and troubled haunted my puppyhood. In a person’s life, overuse of words like stupid, disabled, or challenged as a child can impact a person for the rest of their adult life. Truth becomes us. But can we become truth?
I’ve often wondered this as I think nostalgically back on my time before my people brought me into my forever home. I encountered a variety of characters in a myriad of settings who each taught me invaluable lessons along my journey. So how could I be so stupid? Why do they keep calling me naughty? What did the folks at the humane society say to my mom that almost made her give up fighting to adopt me?
Then it happened. The tides changed, and with them my life changed forever. Two distinctly similar moments come to mind when I think of the brilliance of contradictory wisdom. My first night at the humane society when I thought the world was coming to an end, Rusty the golden retriever showed me the light. Much like my favorite transcendentalist thinker Ralph Waldo Emerson, Rusty believed we are not products of what the world tells us, but rather of what we tell ourselves. We are what we think, so of course if we believe the negative things that are said about us we indeed may become them.
The bookend to my understanding of this occurred only a few short months later, when my forever family took me to see an animal behaviorist for my alleged behavioral problems. (This was required by the humane society as a condition of my adoption.) I’ll never forget the first two sentences Jenny said when we began our session. “He’s got to be one of the most unique looking dogs I’ve ever met,” she said, “and so smart!”
It was the first time anyone had ever used the word smart to describe me. And in that moment I was both overwhelmed with joy and humbled. Rusty changed my interpretation of the world around me by changing my interpretation of myself, and here I was being praised for simply being me. I know it sounds contradictory, but in that moment I realized true wisdom is found through admission there is much yet to learn.
It is because of my personal admission of humility that I can say I honestly wouldn’t mind being called those negative names anymore. Sure, if we hear something repeated enough times we begin to believe it. But let us learn from the variety of characters life offers us. Let us choose to contradict the negative things with our positive thoughts. Let us become our own truth.