Friday, October 28, 2011

Overcoming Instinct

"I did it!" exulted Asherel as she sat atop the horse, and just as I was about to say, "Scoot forward- you're too far back!", the horse started bucking wildly. It happened so fast that none of us had time to be scared. Asherel quickly slid off the horse, landing feet first, though a little closer to the kicking hooves than I would have preferred.. As soon as the horse felt her weight fall away, he stopped kicking and bucking.
"You were sitting too far back," I said.
I decided that was enough practice mounting a horse bareback and we led the horse back to Jill who was preparing for another lesson. Jill is a fantastic instructor and had only left Asherel with the horse knowing Asherel had ridden for many years, and also that I was there. I didn't fault her at all, but I had to tell her that the horse had bucked. She trains her horses so that you can drop a bomb and they won't flinch, but this was a fairly new horse for her.
"Asherel was sitting on his poor kidneys... I don't blame him," I said to Jill.
"No, I understand why he did it," said Jill, "But he can't be allowed to do it and still be in this program."
She showed us how to stand out of range of the back hooves and flick our hands along the horse's twitchy flanks.
"You keep doing that," she explained,"And the horse learns not to fear touch and pressure there. He was just reacting with instinct."
"You can overcome instinct?" I asked.
At that very moment, she glanced up to see her German Shepherd chasing a barn cat. He was snarling, and not looking like he was about to ask the cat over for a cup of tea.
"NO!" she shrieked to the dog.
He stopped in his tracks, looking sheepishly at her as the cat scuttled under my van.
"Yes," continued Jill, "You can overcome instinct but it takes a lot of time, persistence, and commitment."

We are finishing our reading about the American Revolution. I am time and again amazed at how universally beloved George Washington was. One of the most striking aspects of his character is that he was supposedly a man of a ferocious temper. However, he set about determinedly to control it, and became the model of dignified patience and decorum. Our baser nature can be overcome.

The SAT question of the day was a vocabulary question, but the content was about anger. The sentence said that research showed, contrary to what is often believed, that by expressing anger, one often increases its magnitude rather than reducing it. The lesson? Anger should be controlled.

I often pray what I call the "2x4" prayer. It goes something like this:
"Dear heavenly Father,
I am dense and thick headed, slow to understand, hard of spiritual hearing - and now that we mention it, physical hearing as well. Show me your will, but you may need to hit me over the head with a 2x4 with it, or it is quite likely I won't get it."
I think God was slamming me with a 2x4 yesterday. Anger and all its little precedents- criticism, frustration, irritation, demeaning comments, sarcasm- need to be eradicated. Anger may get the monkey off my back, but it may also get me thrown out of the program.

Proverbs 15

1 A gentle answer turns away wrath,

   but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Proverbs 29:8

New International Version (NIV)
 8 Mockers stir up a city,
   but the wise turn away anger.

Proverbs 30:33

33 For as churning cream produces butter,
   and as twisting the nose produces blood,
   so stirring up anger produces strife.”

Psalm 86:15

15 But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God,
   slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.

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