Careful, Animals May Bite

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This summer my family took a trip to a zoo in Ohio. About the first thing we did was visit the petting pen. The goats watched us with their strange, rectangular eyes. The kids patted them, brushed them, dodged their little…ahem…piles.

I happen to dislike goats for my own reasons (they creep me out), so I watched the petting and brushing and dodging. I also take a few pictures.

“Yup. That is a huge pile of turds,” I said to my 6 year old boys.

They think piles of turds are hilarious

I turned around and saw a warning along one of the fence rungs.

“CAREFUL, ANIMALS MAY BITE”

Thanks for the warning, zoo people. I didn’t see the well punctuated caution until we were ALREADY INSIDE THE PETTING PEN!

I gathered my kids and had them pose in front of the sign, growling mouths and curled fingers. Roar.

We went along our way to see the cheetahs and polar bears and manatees. It was a nice day.

Later on (as in, while I searched my phone for pictures that might inspire a blog post), I found the picture sans children.

Careful, animals may bite.

Hm.

Can I change that up a bit?

Careful, people may bite.

Careful, bosses may bite,

or customers

or friends

or family

or significant others.

Careful, sometimes people are meanies. Sometimes they hurt you. Watch out! If you get close to someone else they may harm you.

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will leave scars.

Vulnerability is terrifying.

I’ve been insulted. Offended. Wounded. I’ve read things others have said about my writing that, no joke, made me cry because it hurt. I’ve read between the lines of what that person said and the words were “she isn’t good enough”.

I’ve gotten rejection letters/emails. A few of them were a little snippy.

Over the years I’ve had people comment negatively on my body, my hair, my weight.

People often feel they have the right and responsibility to point out faults and failings. It’s enough to make me curl up in a ball and ignore the world.

Wouldn’t that be nice some days?

A few times I was tempted to quit writing because the rejection/criticism was too hard to swallow.

Vulnerability is terrifying.

Careful, people may bite.

But you know what? Sometimes people prove themselves better than that. Most of the time, actually. They put themselves on the line to advocate for someone else, to champion them. They share a kind word, write a life-giving note of encouragement.

Careful, people may prove gentle

and loving

and compassionate

and friendly.

But I wouldn’t know that if I never shed my protective skin and exposed my stories and heart and soul.

Careful, vulnerability is dangerous.

But it’s worth it.

Vulnerability can show you the good in this world.

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10 thoughts on “Careful, Animals May Bite

  1. Your writing is awesome. I’ve wanted to buy several copies of Paint Chips to share with everyone. I read the book in mid July and already it is in a third persons hands. One I shared the book with didn’t know things like sex trafficking existed. I want to buy my grand daughter her own copy. She currently resides at Muskegon River Youth Facility. She did not get wrapped up in sex trafficking, but I believe she would have in time. So thank you for your awesome insight. Your characters were beautiful. The story touching. I cannot wait to read My Mother’s Chamomile.

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    • Thank you so much, Debbie. You are one encouraging lady. I pray that your granddaughter is able to see how much you love her and let that sink in. I pray that she’s able to glean all the help and coping skills she can during this time at the youth facility.

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  2. It used to make me angry when people were cruel, but now it just makes me sad. I think the people who really feel like they have to hurt others are really very scared inside of themselves. I am so blessed not to be afraid anymore and to like myself, and I can’t forget that, no matter what others say. So now I just say a prayer for those who are afraid, and I am happy again. 🙂

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  3. I have been told many times, particularly as it applies to raising children, that it takes a great number of compliments to offset a single criticism. Such is the power of words … and the fragility of our egos. A single compliment can brighten my day for about fifteen minutes; a single criticism can haunt me for a lifetime.

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  4. Susie, I for one think you are absolutely amazing! I think a lot of times that people who “bite” are jealous for whatever reason. They have no idea what the walk is like in my/your/our/someone’s shoes. You already know how highly I regard your writing – *begs, please write more fasterer*. Sometimes I fail, and bite back when people bite. Thank God for His mercy! and Thank God He made you a writer of such a beautiful way to spread His love.

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    • Beth, as always, thank you for your words of encouragement! I bite back sometimes too. And sometimes I don’t use my nice words in the first place (even if I just think them…).

      I’m working on the writing bit. 🙂 Soon, friend. Soon.

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  5. Susie I’m sorry you’ve been hurt. People often hurt others because they have been hurt themselves. I’m so glad you are willing to push through and keep writing and being that wonderful YOU! I know it’s really scary to be vulnerable but that’s true, that’s when we really help and touch people. If God calls us to write it, we have to obey. We never know who it might help- even just one person. Thanks for being obedient. I love reading what you write on your blog and your books. A lot of people didn’t like what Moses and Paul and others wrote either! And look how it has touched the world forever! Keep going!
    Blessings and hugs,
    Myrna

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