Tag Archives: Truth

Forgiveness lessons from a dog

Forgiveness lessons from a dog

The other day I was getting ready to take my dog Jazzy for a walk. Now, this isn’t a daily routine although I know that it’s best for a dog to have one. It’s just that I don’t have a lot of open spaces I can easily take him to, so I take him maybe three or four times a week for a short walk around the neighborhood and he loves it.

On this particular day the poor guy was so excited he kept getting in the way of me and my shoe-laces, and I shouted at him with such force that he sunk down, tail between his legs and slunk away.

Of course, I immediately felt bad, but as I got up and proceeded down the stairs, there he was, eyes bright, tail wagging, tongue hanging out.

My dog had completely let go of what happened like it never occurred. He seemed to instinctively know that it was my momentary irritation at something he did, and not any lasting problem with him—the jovial Jazzy. “Wow,” I said out loud. “Can you teach me how to forgive like that Jazzy?”

How does he do it

How great it would be to easily forgive the insulting remark, the accusation, the discourtesy, the verbal attack, and move on.

But it’s not, is it?

We often self-flagellate, or form a grievance and seek to even the score, but here was my dog showing me that it’s possible to forgive and move on.

How was he doing it?

I think the trick Jazzy demonstrated was he doesn’t attach hurtful meaning to anything that I do. Indeed, he doesn’t attach meaning to anything—he’s a dog—and with no meaning, words or actions can’t have any lasting hurtful impact.

After all, you can’t be hurt by what anyone says to you unless you give what they say a hurtful meaning. For example, I can yell at you, and insult you as loudly as I want, but if I do it in Chinese and you don’t speak Chinese, you’re more likely to wonder what’s up with me, than be hurt by anything I say.

Wounding self-beliefs

The reason we often can’t stop thinking about the meanings we give to things that happen to us is because these meanings poke at a self-belief that wounds us, a belief we may have had about ourselves since we were small e.g. I’m ugly, not smart, not worthy, can’t get it right etc., etc.

Dogs simply don’t have beliefs

Jazzy is able to let things go, or remain unaffected because dogs can’t language the way we do, they don’t give meanings that reinforce beliefs. They associate things (like bells with food) but that’s not the same. Dogs don’t have any ongoing conversations in their heads that reinforce negative beliefs about themselves or other people. Jazzy doesn’t walk around thinking that he’s a bad doggie and he’ll never be on America’s Got Talent.

Jazzy doesn’t walk around thinking that he’s a bad doggie and he’ll never be on America’s Got Talent.

There is no negative self-talk convincing him that he’s anything but who he is: love, play, and devotion. If the walk doesn’t happen today, it may happen tomorrow and if not, that’s OK. He loves me the same. My shouts bounce off him because for him, I am speaking Chinese.

He loves me the same. My shouts bounce off him because for him, I am speaking Chinese.

No need to forgive

At first, I thought Jazzy was teaching me something about forgiveness, but as I wrote this I realize that dog’s don’t forgive because they don’t take offense in the first place (John 8:1-11). Jazzy knew I was upset and he just took evasive action.

He waited for my unexpected thundershower behavior to pass, and as I came down the stairs he could see the blue sky in my new attitude. I was looking at him, smiling, even telling him I was sorry. I’m sure he couldn’t understand, but he didn’t need to.

Dogs don’t create meaning, all they can do is be themselves and be with us. Nothing in the past or future can spoil the present for a dog, and that’s an example we can all follow.

What we can learn

You don’t have to make everything mean something. Nothing that happens to you has any one true meaning, or any meaning at all—not getting fired, promoted or robbed. We are the ones giving meaning to the things that happen to us, so why not choose meanings that lift us up, rather than ones that bring us down, or separate us from each other.

Making negative meanings is a bad habit, like smoking or drinking. We don’t so much find hurtful, hateful meanings lurking under the things that happen to us as we put them there to support wounding beliefs. These beliefs feel true because we’ve associated them with our identity, like Pavlov’s dogs associated food with the sound of a bell.

Dogs can show you that you don’t have to. You choose to believe what you believe and you choose to give the meanings that you give. You can choose different beliefs, and you don’t have to give everything a meaning.

It may take a while to get to the Zen-Master-dog stage of not making everything mean something or letting those hurtful, hateful meanings go when you do, but you might get there faster by paying attention to your dog and start learning from him how to not take anything personally. That way there’s nothing to forgive.

A better alternative to facts

A better alternative to facts

Fact-checking is hard work. It’s a lot easier to pass along that email about the Australian PM threatening Muslims to integrate or get out of the country, or about an aircraft carrier attempting to bully a lighthouse into changing course, than to check if it’s true. People often pass along stories that reinforce their worstContinue Reading

Trust but verify

Trust but verify

Most people spread lies without ambitious agendas. They often parrot other people’s talking points and opinions because it makes it sound like somebody’s home. They’ve never thought about distinctions of truth, belief, fact, opinion, assessment, gossip, and allegation, or why they matter. They’re not weak or stupid, just lazy and indoctrinated. Not surprising. Maybe weContinue Reading

The lie about lies

The lie about lies

We are indoctrinated into thinking lies, all lies are bad, and creates an unnecessary internal conflict, because lie-telling plays an important role in creativity, and compassionContinue Reading

Fool me … Shame on who?

Fool me … Shame on who?

There’s a famous quote that goes, Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. It’s attributed to a Randall Terry but we’ll never forget—and always be grateful for—George W’s mangling of it. (Video below.) It’s an important quote because it says that individual responsibility for the truth is as much theContinue Reading

My scientists smarter than yours

My scientists smarter than yours

Not two weeks ago, I was floating on a noodle, beer in hand, life and conversation good, when the topic of climate change came up and suddenly the world seemed full of short-sighted ignorant people. It started when a new friend seemed untroubled that 2016 is on track to be the hottest year on record,Continue Reading

The half-life of a grievance

The half-life of a grievance

Every now and then, an old grievance comes to mind. There’s one about a guy who accused me of something I didn’t do, and whenever his name comes up, the grievance is right behind. Sometimes from out of nowhere the grievance enter’s the spotlight of my mind and a variation of the incident replays —oneContinue Reading

Trump’s success formula and what we can emulate

Trump’s success formula and what we can emulate

We all know the risk of being insensitive, rude and politically incorrect. We’ve felt the sting of crossing the line enough times to know it’s not socially acceptable. How then to explain Donald Trump, who attributes his success to crossing that line? What is the Trump winning formula and is there anything about him toContinue Reading

Thinking now old-fashioned

Thinking now old-fashioned

The truth, we’ve been told, is out there somewhere and we can thank science for showing us how to arrive at truth, reject untruth, and most importantly to dethrone old truth’s that no longer apply. This is good because the truth is much bigger and more unknowable than we give it credit for; that’s whyContinue Reading

The whole truth and nothing but

The whole truth and nothing but

Many of our people problems at home and at work come from the common mistake that we can know not only the truth, but the whole truth … and nothing but. We can’t—and that’s why I can’t imagine being selected for a jury. How could anyone take the oath “I solemnly swear to tell theContinue Reading

What is it all about?

Got this in my inbox the other day: Peter, if it was just about surviving, getting by, and keeping things the way they are, then how would you explain imagination? If it was just about sacrifice, selflessness, and altruism, then how would you explain desire? And if it was just about thinking, reflection, and spiritualContinue Reading

A Better Alternative to Assuming and Opining

Knowing the danger of opinions and having a practical alternative to them is essential to making good business and political decisions and for the proper care of your relationships. In my last post I gave a very vivid example of the negative consequences of making assumptions. Don Miguel Ruiz in the Four Agreement was rightContinue Reading

“Look at him, he’s laughing at you!”

Many years ago my girlfriend and I were walking through an open field at the Toronto zoo.  It was late afternoon on a perfect day; blue sky, warm weather, sounds of birds and people in the distance.  We had already been there for a few hours, and we were having a great time. As weContinue Reading

In defense of Gossiping

In my last post I wrote about the Consequences of Gossiping and like most things in life there are many shades of grey.  Below there is an amusing story about gossiping that suggests that while you are well advised to remove yourself from gossip it is not wise to be completely oblivious to it. Here’sContinue Reading

When You Can’t Trust a Trapeze Artist

A few weeks ago, I was at a birthday party and I introduced myself to some friends of the birthday girl. They didn’t look alike at all and I was genuinely surprised when they insisted they were siblings. They all had really great energy and I engaged in a very lively and I thought genuineContinue Reading

Why can’t you find THE answers?

I was reading a fellow blogger’s post today, and in it he said his purpose was to help you find THE (my caps) answers to certain life questions.   This reminded me of some of my earlier posts on truth where I talk about the concept of truth and that perhaps Jack Nicholson’s character wasContinue Reading

Oceans of Truth

Most people are taught that the truth is some final answer that can be fully known, comprehended and owned, that it is finite and describable. Well, it is so NO-OOTT, as the valley girls would say. There are two major aspects to the truth that when acknowledged could make this world a very different place. Continue Reading

Breakthrough in being with another’s POV

The other day I was having a drink with a good friend of mine and he began to relate his impression of one of the political candidates in the upcoming election.  To say that his view was completely at odds with my own is to put it mildly.  What was really interesting though was thatContinue Reading

Humility Producers

I can’t believe I did that! I mean really; what could have I been thinking?  I’m too embarrassed to describe the event, but I will say that it was inappropriate. And to top it off, it was with a very put together professional who could be of immense value in my professional growth and aContinue Reading

Who is this person I’m in a relationship with?

I’m a big fan of the movie Crash because it did an excellent job of illustrating this point:the greatest good and the greatest evil lies within us all. What got me writing about it now is a couple that I know that is going through a rocky period. I’m not going to describe details …Continue Reading

Are there no lies then?

This question only makes sense as a follow up to my last two posts so if you haven’t read them please do. The answer to the question is there most definitely are, and you can consider a more powerful relationship to lies that is less destructive to relationships and more supportive of your being aContinue Reading

Are beliefs true?

Are beliefs true?

Because you believe something does it make it true? There was a time when educated people believed the world was flat, ships could not be made of metal, and the earth was the center of the solar system. The answer to “Are beliefs true?” seems obvious, yet is a very deep question. How you answer depends onContinue Reading

What is your concept of truth?

What is your concept of truth?

What is your concept of the truth, and why is it germane to the practice of your life? Well think about it.  If you live your life according to things that you believe are true, and they’re only partially true or flat out wrong, what do you think the impact would be on your life?Continue Reading

Obama’s “A more perfect union”

If you haven’t seen or read Barack Obama’s speech on race on March 18th, 2008 I highly recommend that you do (link below). Regardless of your political persuasion, I think you will agree that it was at least different from what we’ve come to expect from politicians. Now the word different does not begin toContinue Reading

What is this blog about?

So I begin my blog.  Can’t tell you the degree of professional procrastination that has this date be Mar 11th 2008 vs. Mar 11th 2005. Oh, what would I write about it? What if I make mistakes? What will people say about my mistakes?   And my grammar sucks. What happens when I change myContinue Reading