There is a pivotal scene in To Kill a Mockingbird when a rabid dog comes into town. Atticus Finch is the only person brave enough and skilled enough to shoot the dog that threatens the town and his family. He tells Scout, “Go on in Scout,” then he shoots the dog. Unlike Atticus I don’t always know when the dog is rabid until it’s too late.
This week I came face to face with a rabid dog, a woman whose carefully crafted illusion of self came undone by her own failure to do what was required of her. When a person’s self image is the only self they know they become rabid when it’s threatened. They will go to any means necessary to preserve it. They will snarl and snap at whoever gets in the way. They become fearful and filled with fear, malicious. Words get twisted and an enemy is created where there was a friend. You can’t talk to them and you can’t reason with them, they’re crazy. It’s best just to go on inside. That’s what reasonable people do. I am not always reasonable.
There are times when the hippie in me dances into town, oblivious to what passes for reality. If Harper Lee had put a hippie in To Kill a Mockingbird she would have been like me this week. She would have tried to feed the dog and fix it with what she thought was love but was really her own version of a self serving delusion. One delusion is just as dangerous as another, trust me. So, I got bit this week then I got mad. That did not make the situation better. It did snap me back into my right mind, thank you very much, but it was bad for awhile. Being in my right mind helped me see the situation for what it was, then and only then could I choose an action that was based, not on delusion or fear, but on the right action of a relatively sane woman.
A friend told me that her serenity was more important than relationships, people and causes. She learned to preserve it all costs. I’m learning to do the same thing and that means keeping my distance from people who are rabid dogs. There are times when I need to go on inside and shut the door. It doesn’t mean I am unkind or churlish. There’s never a need to be ugly with someone. There is, however, a need to minimize contact with them. The most loving thing I can do is accept that they are crazy afraid and there’s not a thing I can do for them except pray that they are restored to their right mind the same way I pray to be restored to my right mind.
There are times when it seems there is so much fear in a person that there isn't room for love. There is. There’s always room for love. Love works miracles but it’s the miracle of God’s love not the miracle of a well intentioned hippie. God’s love is plenty big enough, and while it’s true that His love is manifested in the world by us, it’s also true that we need to know the difference between His love and our ego. We need to know when to go on inside and let Him do what needs to be done. He can handle it. His love is big enough and bright enough for the most fearful of us, even a well intentioned hippie.