If you are my wife Laurie’s friend on Facebook, you may have seen two photos that she posted today. First there was a nice shot of our doggie Annie’s fuzzy face captioned “Wanted: New Home for This” followed by a shot of our formerly full kitchen garbage can dumped on the kitchen floor captioned “Full Disclosure: She Does This.” Nobody took Laurie’s threat seriously; anyone who knows us knows that Annie is part of the family ‘til death do us part.
We probably deal with a minor mess like this about once a week. I think it frustrates me more than anyone else at our house; and I’ve certainly made more of these fake threats of excommunication than anyone else.
Truth is… we know it isn’t only Annie’s fault… maybe not even mostly Annie’s fault. First off, we did a poor job of training her. She not only gets in the garbage, she is awful on a leash, jumps on visitors, and runs off if we don’t watch the doors carefully. All of that is mostly because we have failed to train her and now we have given up, determining that we cannot teach an old dog new tricks (she doesn’t do any tricks either, unless being really really cute is a trick).
So now we are the ones who are trained, conforming our behavior to her’s. So when it comes to the kitchen trash, we put it up where she can’t reach it when we leave the house… except when we forget, like I did today when I was the last one to leave the house this morning.
So we might look at her sternly, shaking our finger, saying “bad dog!” but really these are often cases of “bad humans.”
How often does bad behavior in other aspects of our lives follow the same pattern? Now please don’t accuse me of equating our kids, colleagues, employees, coworkers and such with my poorly trained dog… it is just a loose metaphor. But doesn’t the same sort of thing happen all the time?
People make messes too… and before we react we need to pause and ask questions like “did I provide the training?” or “did I put systems in place to keep this from happening” or “did I fail to hold up my end of the deal?”