When you back him into a corner, sometimes the groundhog bites you!
When I was little boy, my maternal grandparents had a black labrador retriever named Buddy. One summer day while I was playing in my grandparents' front yard, I watched Buddy corner a groundhog in their open-bay garage. The groundhog hissed, while Buddy barked and made quite a commotion. Buddy pranced back and forth in front of the groundhog, his head bobbing and tongue flapping in the typical, goofy labrador fashion. This hissing and barking spectacle went on for about one or two minutes, until the groundhog became quite tired of the whole ordeal, at which point he simply lunged forward and bit poor Buddy on the tongue. As you can imagine, shrill yelping and blood flinging ensued. Needless to say, Buddy conceded ground to the groundhog. Come to think of it, I never saw Buddy bother another groundhog again.
I read an article this morning that reminded me of "the Buddy incident." Apparently, Paige Patterson, president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), made some demeaning comments about women years ago. As unfortunate as these statements were, they were made during a time when chauvinism was much less criticized in our society. So, back then, he got away with it. Those days have passed. Yet, according to this article, when Mr. Patterson was recently questioned about his comments, he defended them, even calling on Scripture as his ally. Like Buddy, Mr. Patterson pranced in front of his interviewer, offering forth his goofy, head-bobbing defense of what many Christian outsiders have come to see as the typical response of Christian leaders when confronted with the moral decay of American evangelicalism. Instead of walking away from his comments and apologizing, he decided to corner the media in defense of them. Well, guess what? The media, like my 1980s-era groundhog, took a big bite out of Mr. Patterson--as did many of his evangelical brethren--and now he faces almost certain expulsion from his presidency.
So, what can we learn from Mr. Patterson and Buddy? I think it is quite simple: accept responsibility for your actions! Yes, it is difficult to face our own failures and faults in life. Believe me, I have plenty of them, so I know firsthand. However, when we take responsibility for our missteps, something pretty awesome happens. First, we experience freedom. When we admit our "sins," we don't have to defend them any longer or create lies to hide them. Secondly, we garner the respect of others. Sure, we may suffer some consequences for admitting our faults, but those to whom we confess will usually give us moral-ethical "credit" for owning up to them. Finally, the consequences themselves will be much less harsh. When we are proactive and voluntarily admit our "wrongs" rather than having them exposed, we often experience fewer criticisms or punishments.
Buddy lived a good full life, but I bet he never forgot that groundhog! I certainly never forgot the incident. I've often wondered if the groundhog targeted Buddy's tongue or if he simply got lucky when he bit one of the most vascular parts of a dog's body. Either way, he taught Buddy and me that the tongue is a tender organ that we should deploy with more tactical precision. Too often we let it flop and flail, and expose it to an ever-aggressive world as we use it to make excuses and/or defend our less-than-defensible ways. So, the inevitable happens...we get bit! When we corner the groundhog instead of just giving up the ground, we often end up hurt and bleeding, the victims of our own stupidity.