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Lessons in Humility

by Caroline

I’ve recently been humbled and have been forced to admit defeat. I never expected it to happen in this area. After all, if there was one moral area I was pretty sure I excelled at, it was in the area of treating animals well.* 

Whenever I’d go to a foreign country, I would be the one to kneel down and pet the stray skinny dogs. I was the one who would get teary when I’d see dogs living their lives in tiny confined areas. I was the one who would wrinkle my nose in distaste when I’d see dogs with their tails or ears cropped. Or silently judge others who got their pets from stores and breeders while tens of thousands of nice dogs in shelters were euthanized for want of a home. How I leveled mental vitriol at people who didn’t treat their pets according to my standards.

Well, I’ve learned my lesson. Eliza, the half beagle, half devil, has defeated me. This Saturday I’ll be taking her to a vet to get debarked – a procedure that is questionably humane. I never thought I would ever consider such a course. It makes me sick with distaste when I think about it, but what choice do I have, I ask myself. The neighbors are annoyed and upset by her constant barking. Bark collars, time outs, yelling at her, shutting her up inside the house – nothing works. Her horrible bark can penetrate any barrier.

I rationalize my decision by telling myself that anyone else would have gotten rid of her long ago. (Barking is only one of her problems – biting is another.) And that she’ll be happier once she’s allowed to go in the backyard again. But still, I can’t believe it’s come to this. For the first time I understand how a person could be driven to give away their dog or dump it off at the shelter.

Anyway, the whole Eliza experience has been an exercise in humility. Sometimes love and kindness aren’t enough to get an animal to behave, I now know. Sometimes it takes some tough, morally questionable tactics to be able to coexist.. I sure learned my lesson about judging others when I don’t know the full situation.

What about you? What lessons in humility have you learned? Have you ever had a tough experience that has forced you to reconfigure your world view and realize that you really don’t have the moral high ground to stand on?

*full disclosure; I have a horrible meat eating habit which I’ve tried to break.


Caroline has a PhD in religion and studies Mormon women.

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  1. Jessawhy says:

    Great story! I’m not a pet lover, but all of my friend’s pets seem to love me, sigh.
    I am constantly feeling humbled about parenting, that’s for sure.
    EmilyCC and I have been talking about this alot, lately. It’s so easy to say, “I’ll never spank my kids.” or “I’ll make sure my kids are always in bed early, because letting them stay up too late is bad for them.” or such nonsense. I’ve found a lot of desperate times where those notions have just flown out the window.
    Moral high ground has less meaning to me now that it has in the past.

  2. Reina says:

    So my lesson on humility – I never thought I would struggle with the law of chastity. But I am. Don’t know where to begin or how to step back. I know I should, but I am angry at myself and the church (for prop 8, etc) and need to humble myself a bit more before I confess. Does anyone have any thoughts on how they have done so? On this magnitude or smaller …

  3. Caroline says:

    Hi Jess,
    Yes, I was thinking that parenting would come up as an area of feeling humbled. I know I spent a lot of my time in sacrament meeting mentally cursing those families with rowdy kids, disturbing every one else’s concentration. Now I’m one of those families.

    I know this might not comfort you, but if it’s any consolation, I would say that almost every LDS has struggled with chastity in one form or another. I think there are a lot fewer people who are lily white in that area than we might think. I have no good advice about humbling yourself before confessing…. I think that just wanting to change and improve yourself is probably enough. Though of course, all of this is complicated if you’re upset with the Church because of Prop 8. (I totally am with you there.) I myself am trying to figure out how to feel less upset and betrayed.

  4. Ellen says:

    I am currently in a singles ward that I’m not too fond off. It’s a fine ward and people try really hard to make it good place, but often I feel very out of place and I’m quick to criticize lessons or people’s attitudes. A few weeks ago I was talking to a lady whose son is in my ward. The son has had some serious problems in his life such as run-ins with the law and other things. He decided he doesn’t find a reason to believe in God. One day he showed up for a ward activity and has been coming to our ward ever since. His mother said she was thankful for my ward and the people in it, for accepting her son. He has been coming to my ward for about 6 months now and not once has he felt like he was rejected or had his feelings hurt. While he doesn’t show it, his mother noticed that the support and friendship he receives from my ward have been very important to him.
    Her comment really hit me hard. I never thought that those boring FHE softball-activities or the people I do not get along with, or the weekly ‘handbook- Sunday School- lessons’ would be such an important part of someone’s life. I learned not to evaluate something only on my personal terms.

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