Summer brings back great memories of working as a camp counselor. I remember how much work it took to get the guys to clean the cabin for inspection and memorize a daily Bible verse for flag-raising. Hoyt, my co-counselor, and I discovered that the best way to get the boys to learn a Bible verse was to create skits and find short but memorable verses. When our cabin name was called, we “Men of Iroquois” would step forward, do some feeble attempt at acting, and then shout out a verse.
A favorite was Proverbs 26:11 ~
“As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly.” We also loved every verse in the Bible that would rile up the girls, like: “As a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a woman…”
Kind of explains why I was single that summer…
This verse on the surface seems really funny, but as I’ve grown in life experience, it packs a lot of truth. We’ve all had those situations in which we keep going back to things that aren’t good for us. I remember a couple in high school and they were both great people, but together they were horrible. They kept breaking up and then getting back together, breaking up and getting back together. It really was disgusting and they just couldn’t walk away.
All of us would benefit from being able to walk away from those situations that trap us, whether it is some sort of compulsion or addiction, or even that “situation” you constantly find yourself in which always turns out bad.
It isn’t about teaching our kids to walk away from difficult situations or people, but we need to make sure that we aren’t repeating our mistakes.
Dr. Henry Cloud has a fantastic new book out called: Never Go Back: 10 Things You’ll Never Do Again. This book starts off answering the opposite question: “When should I go back?” You need to read the book to get the whole story, but in a nut shell, before you go back, carefully answer the following three questions:
- How am I different now that would make things successful this time?
- How is the other person different now that would make things successful this time?
- Has the situation significantly changed that would make things successful this time?
This isn’t about hoping to change or wishing things were different or even a person being sorry. It isn’t about good intentions, but about results. It’s about measurable change and making sure that we aren’t going back to vomit pretending it is something worth eating.
I met Trouble the other day. Trouble is a three-year-old Wheaton Terrier who kind of looks like a massive teddy bear. In the two minutes that Trouble’s owner brought him into our yard, he: sniffed at me, allowed us to rub his head, tried to chase a bird, sniffed a bunch, scratched himself, went pee, checked to see if my girls had food with them or just smelled like food, and chased his shadow. He was a great dog doing the things that most dogs prefer to do, which is whatever their doggy brains feel like doing.
Dogs live on emotion and I’m so much like a dog when I keep choosing the easy, “this will make me feel better” path. One of the most important things to help our kids understand is that they aren’t dogs, they are humans with the ability to not only have emotions, but also have the ability to be reasonable and combine these into wisdom.
Vomit looks great to dogs, but as humans we’ve learned to not go back to restaurants that gave us food poisoning, let alone gobbling up what our stomaches just rejected (okay, I think that was one of the most disgusting lines I’ve ever typed). Yet, major change only happens when we get to that point of realizing that what we want really isn’t as good as we remember or long for it to be.
Why don’t you take some time to ask your kids what they think Proverbs 26:11 means? If your kids are ready, I’d recommend you establish family accountability around this by saying something like, “If you see me keep going back to something that you know isn’t good for me, you can say ‘dog eating vomit’ and I’ll do my best to stop feasting and listen to what you have to say.” That won’t be an easy conversation, but wouldn’t we all be better off if we ate less vomit (okay, that is a tie for most disgusting sentence)?