Why Watching the Dog Doesn’t Work

by Peggy Hahn, LEAD Executive Director

When Dewayne and I got married, I discovered that his dog was a remarkable predictor of his behavior. I was new to this household and the lab offered me a guide to navigating what felt like a foreign culture to me. His behavior and expectations provided me with a beat on the daily liturgy of waking up, eating, working, eating and going to sleep. Plus, he knew where the important things in the house were kept.

Only watching the dog didn’t work.

All the dog could do was point to the past. A past that I wasn’t part of.

He was kind and welcoming to me, but he couldn’t show me a future dance. Dewayne and I had to muddle along until we figured that out together.

Honestly, the dog adapted to the new marriage faster than we did.

The older we get, the more likely it is that we have patterns of behavior that we may or may not even be aware of. Intellectually, adding new people to our lives seems like a good idea, but, emotionally, it can feel overwhelming. We know and feel comforted by our current way of being and the whole idea of new people messes with us.

Dewayne didn’t expect me to be exactly like his first wife. He is a generous, thoughtful person who knew he was inviting a whole new person in and that it would change the culture of his life. Yet he was unsure how to help me be me in a new world. I needed the courage to enter and the bravery to articulate my needs.

It takes courage for new people to walk in the door of your church too. They won’t be able to be brave or share their needs unless we create space for them to be them. We may not be sure how to do this, but we can be self-aware enough to notice our culture, we can be quiet enough to listen and, like my husband, we can be open enough to welcome the change.

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