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Inspiration for Today’s Motivational: “Putting Your Hoof Down”
Not everything in life is a black or white choice, as most people probably realize. Not everything has an easy answer that we can do or not do. As Fluttershy demonstrates in this episode, one of the areas can be in our treatment of others or, perhaps more appropriately, how we allow them to treat us.
Fluttershy goes through both extremes in this episode when dealing with difficult people. At first, she’s too nice and becomes, to borrow the phrase from the episode, a “doormat”. Basically someone that anyone can walk all over whenever they want. Later she changes to do the opposite extreme, this time using physical and verbal intimidation to cow everyone beneath her that she encounters. In the end, she finally learns how to be assertive in her own way; neither letting people walk over her or by being mean and cruel.
In terms of actual reactions to people in real life, we can liken these two behaviors to two different ways of dealing with people. The first way, in which Fluttershy let others walk all over her, can be akin to a person who lacks faith in themselves or their judgments. Someone who relies on others for happiness or well-being, even a sense of worth. In that situation, they allow themselves to be used, manipulated, and abused because they have no healthy self-image for themselves. They feel they aren’t worthy of respect or consideration and rely totally on the approval of others. A good analogy is that of an open city without any form of defense. Both allies and enemies are allowed to come in and do what they like with what’s within.
However, the opposite response is little better. When Fluttershy started reacting to everything with hostility and anger, one might see that more akin to the person who drives everyone away and shuts them out. Due to past hurt or emotional pain, these individuals build walls around their emotions. They never let anyone in, and always keep them at arms length where they can’t be hurt. Their emotions and true selves remain totally contained and isolated. The analogy for this one is a city surrounded by impenetrable high walls without gates. Both allies and enemies are kept completely out and unable to bring anything within it, just as nothing inside can ever get out.
To sum up, letting people do as they will with you is bad, but so is hardening yourself completely to people as well. The third option for a city is to have walls but with gates that are controlled from within. Who is in the city sees what comes up to the gate, decides whether it’s good or bad, and then either lets it in or keeps it out. The same way works with our emotions and how we deal with people.
In 1 Corinthians 15:33, Paul cautioned his readers by recounting a proverb: “Do not be deceived. ‘Bad company ruins good morals’.” In particular, this is part of a larger passage Paul was writing about how some members of the emerging Church were claiming teachings contrary to that of Lord Jesus, and as a result was causing unrest and unease in the community. Basically, he taught the members of the Church to be on guard on who they listened to. In other words, just because there were a lot of instructors in the Church community, it didn’t mean that all of them were teaching the same message, or that some weren’t actually preaching a contrary message that caused not only rifts in the early Church but also unease and discomfort among the newer believers. He warned against the corrupting influence of false teaching and, moreover, to not just take whatever came in but evaluate it first.
In the same way, when we trust our emotions to others or invite people in, we must be careful about ‘bad company ruining good morals’. If people are saying things to us or interacting with us clearly just for their own benefit or things that we know are not constructive criticism but are rather means to either demean or control us, we must keep them out. On the other hand, if people say things that may be hard but we can identify are good for our benefit, or builds us up, or comes from a loving and respectful position no matter the content, then we should let these people in.
There is no “easy answer” when it comes to trusting others and dealing with them. No one-size-fits-all-approach. Rather, it requires maturity, responsibility, and vigilance toward who we choose to interact with and let in. Most of all, it requires active listening and not just blindly accepting or rejecting everything we hear; being wise enough to discern between good and bad. As 1 John 4:1 instructs, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, thank you that you created mankind not to be blindly obedient but to be thinking, rational creatures. Help us to evaluate everything that comes our way from those in our lives. Guide us to realize if what we here is truly wholesome for us or is ‘rot to the bones’ or ‘poison to the soul’, and grant that we will be mature and wise enough only to take in what builds us up and helps us to be more what you envision us to be. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”