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It Just Bites


We can learn a lot about ourselves by paying attention to our teeth. Ever notice when they are locked together tightly? Likely in reaction to something. Maybe it’s anger. Perhaps it’s restraint. It could even be disgust. Any number of things can cause us to clench our teeth. They can be good barometers for gauging our responses to the realities we bump into as we slip and slide from day to night and back again.

That expression with teeth to it has become commonplace. A huge disappointment lands in our laps – such as a younger and less experienced employee gets promoted into a position higher than ours – and we feel like a vicious animal has just taken a chunk out of our rear end. “That really bites” we say through our own gritted teeth. Or we observe people arriving at a restaurant after us and yet they are waited on ahead of us and receive their food well before we do. Grrr. That just bites, doesn’t it? Surely, we all wear the scars of being the last to be chosen on some elementary or middle school team of some sort, yes?

It's all about justice, of course. Our sense of it anyway. I once had a seven-year-old child glare at me with a scrunched-up face as she proclaimed, “That’s not fair!” in response to my news that my younger sister was getting married while I was not. I guess she thought that the first one in the cradle should be the first one to the altar. We believe there should be some semblance of order to this messy mayhem we call life. Expand that to the planet and we think that everyone everywhere should feel that what we believe just bites just bites for them too. Right and wrong are pretty much universally agreed upon, yes?

Acceptance and affirmation are two of the shiftiest cousins we encounter while we walk the planet wearing our scars. We crave them both. We’re often willing to sacrifice, compromise, negotiate, mask, wager, and pay insanely high prices for them. Tolerance simply isn’t enough. Whether it comes through in our words and actions or not, our insides are screaming in exclamation points: Notice me! See me! Listen to me! Appreciate me! Because we have our own sense of justice humming like background music in our heads and hearts, we compare ourselves to others and rank our lives against theirs. And when the planet doesn’t align itself to our ranking system, we become outraged. “That just bites!” we fume, in part because there’s probably precious little we can do about it. There’s far less agitation and indigestion when we stick to safe and small, those two reliable cousins we cling to when our sense of justice just got our noses nipped.

But, of course, there’s more than a precious little we can do to change the background music humming in our heads and hearts. And perhaps if we walked the planet wearing our scars more attuned to the graced notes of gratitude, our ranking systems might morph into thanking systems seeing reality for the messy marvel it is rather than the source of our accolades it will never be. And we’d keep our teeth for the summer corn and autumn’s apples.

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