Pets seem to be very in tune with us – more than most people.
It fascinates me how my two cats respond to my real thoughts or emotions. Despite my outward persona, it is my inner rhythm that they are connected to. What I truly think and feel impacts their actions. It is incredible.
Malcolm, my male Ragdoll kitten, was keeping his distance from me, and I thought that he just didn’t want my affection like his sister, Sophie. No big deal, they are just different. However, after a conversation with my brother, an animal lover, I realized that thought was causing him to keep his distance. At that moment I changed. Instead I thought – he wants my affection just as much as Sophie. Almost immediately he acted differently; hanging around me, wanting to be picked up, and cuddling with me. Since then our relationship has been totally different – and needless to say much more satisfying for both of us. And all I did was change my thinking.
Our thinking affects our attitude, emotions, temperament, and actions. It is the sum of these that others pick up on. In speaking to others, 70% of our communication is non-verbal, so most of what we say is what we don’t. Others obviously don’t know what we think, but what we think affects what they receive from us. Our thoughts are very important. If we change them then it affects everything else. I think this is why Paul told us to meditate on things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy. Philippians 4:8, 1 Timothy 4:15
Our thinking impacts how people respond to us because it is the source to what we put out. To connect with others on a deeper level we need to be aware of our thoughts toward them and if they are hindering or helping, and second we need to be willing to look past their exterior to what is really going on.
The other day I was feeling a bit down. Malcolm tuned into how I was feeling and followed me around and sat down with me on the sofa. His affection was a bit different than normal – he knew I was upset even if it was subtle. Pets are amazing animals. For those who have a good relationship with them you know what a comfort they can be. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but when I talk to other pet owners they experience similar interactions. They seem to pick up what’s beneath the exterior.
If we do these two things, attend to our thoughts and look beyond the exterior, a more meaningful connection can be established with others.
However, there are things that can interfere with looking beyond the exterior.
Often we have so much of our own stuff in the way preventing us from truly focusing on someone else. Fear, self-focus, pride, unforgiveness, living in the past, and worried about the future all affect our ability to be fully engaged in the moment and love others in such a compassionate and real way. And often when we do pick up on what is going on underneath we don’t respond to it for various reasons – at least I don’t.
Imagine if we were in tune and responsive to one another like our pets. . . how different our relationships would be? We wouldn’t respond to each others masks or defense mechanisms; we would look into the soul and respond accordingly. Several years ago, Larry Crabb wrote a book, Soul Talk. It was about connecting and talking to others at this deeper level. It is a great concept, but I have found it is easier said than done. Focusing on my self, how I am perceived, trying to please others, fear of rejection, reacting to the surface level of defense mechanisms that anger and hurt me, and pride all get in the way. But interestingly, as I abide in God’s truth and He frees me from my own issues and fills me with His love, I am finding that looking past the exterior is coming naturally.
We are here to love God and love others Luke 10:27 – if we aren’t clued into each other’s deeper needs then we can’t love and have compassion like we could otherwise.