Tuesday, April 29, 2008

P4E.069 We Are Different From Animals

(8th in a series on predator patterning)

"It's a common complaint among animal researchers. Whenever they find a mental skill in a species that is reminiscent of a special human ability, the human cognition scientists change the definition."
Inside Animal Minds, By Virginia Morell, National Geographic, March 2008

What still separates us is our developed language, our ability to communicate in both written and verbal form about the past, present and future and "the extra layer of imagination and explanation that provides the running mental narrative accompanying our actions." (ibid.)

In the end, I hope that one more way we are different from animals is that we can believe in a Creator and respond to that belief by being self-aware enough to purposefully change the way we think, act and talk. I am not a rat in a maze whose pattern never alters until the day he dies.

Last weekend I heard a radio preacher vehemently preaching on Galatians 2:16. I'm not writing here about whether we are "justified" by "works" or "faith." I'm writing about the process of becoming a new creature because we BELIEVE. Don't be confused.

So...How does it happen? How do we move away from the destructive predator patterning that I've been chronicling?

First, we must overcome our initial defensiveness that causes us to deflect the criticism that we are acting like predators. Many of us husbands eventually (or initially) get to the place where we want to blame our wives for our problems. "Why should I change? Why shouldn't she change?" To paraphrase horse trainer Clinton Anderson:

"To change your wife, you must first change yourself.
To change yourself, you must first change your attitude."

Remember, the predator attitude is SELFISH. So, here's the challenge:

Step 1: Purpose to let others go first. Especially when I must sacrifice to do so.

It looks like this:
I'm in a hurry.
I arrive at a queue at the grocery store, bank, fast food place
at about the same time or just in front of someone else.
I let them go in front of me.

I'm late for an appointment.
I sense that the person driving next to me wants to squeeze himself in the impossibly short distance between me and the car in front of me, with never a turn signal.
I back off and let him in.

My wife has an idea that is contrary to one that I have.
I have very good, logical, well thought-out reasons why my ideas are superior.
I freely sacrifice my idea and get behind hers.

And so on....

"But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, `Friend, move up higher'...For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
Luke 14:10-11

Your Ally in the Pursuit of Christlikeness, Kim

PS - Interesting fact: A group of lions, the definitive predator, is called a "pride."

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

P4E.068 Selfish

(7th in a series on predator patterning)

I've been writing about the overt aspects of predator patterning that may seem obvious to you (or maybe not). Even though they may be obvious, these patterns are not easily interrupted.

There are more subtle aspects of predator patterning that are less obvious, but more universal. At its heart, predator behavior is selfish. The predator attitude is, "I come first at your expense." It is an intensely natural patterning. The patterning is like this:

- My survival comes first.
My priorities, values, desires, attitudes, thoughts, ideas and comfort must survive at the expense of yours.
- I cannot control my emotions or aggressiveness.
They are my unchangeable nature.
- I act on instinct before I think. Thinking slows me down.
- I look for weakness and exploit it when I find it.
- I can be sneaky or I can be blatant. Whatever it takes to win.
- My focus is acute. I'm intense.
- I'm a straight-line thinker. I'm very predictable. I'm not very creative.
- Fear me. I can and will hurt you.
- I will not retreat unless I fail. I do not accept failure easily.

Although this patterning is inwardly focused (selfish) it is usually not self-aware. In other words, because it comes so naturally, we don't know we're doing it when we're doing it. Guys, if you are doubting that you act out in this patterning, the best way to find out is to ask the one closest to you. Ask your wife. Read her answer. If she is uncomfortable, she may avoid answering the question, which in itself provides the answer. If you are one of the fortunate, your wife may comfortably answer "No, you don't act that way towards me. I just can't stand it. You give too much."

Whatever the answer, I encourage you to listen and not to speak. Don't get defensive. We're on a reconnaissance mission, not engaging in battle.

Some of us already know the answer. We don't need help to know that we are selfish by nature. Some of us know and want to change. So the next question is, "How can I interrupt this pattern?" I promise to start addressing the answer in the next post.

In the mean time, here's another provocative question:

"Are there any important parts of my life where I believe that acting like a predator is beneficial and/or necessary?"

Peace, Kim

Thursday, April 17, 2008

P4E.067 The Good Man

(6th in a series on predator patterning)

"The good man out of the treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil man out of his treasure produces evil; for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. Why do you call me 'LORD, LORD,' and not do what I tell you?" Luke 6:45-46 (Revised Standard Version)

A reminder at this point in the series. I began with this:

"I'm starting to believe that an important part of what Christ is looking for in me (since I am His and He is mine) is behavior modification. A more spiritually natural, non-violent approach to my relationships with my wife, my children and others around me. Changing the way I think, act and talk. A part of behavior modification is recognizing the patterns in my life that cause areas of concern and interrupting them. It's called 'pattern interruption.' Am I a rat in a maze whose pattern never alters until the rat dies? God help me, I hope not."

The point of highlighting predator patterning has been to identify it and pinpoint where we might interrupt that destructive patterning.

If you did the little experiment that I suggested in the last post and found that you do any of those facial expressions, sounds or gestures AND agree with me that they exhibit destructive predator patterning, then let's talk.

I know it is difficult for me to acknowledge, but the facial expressions, sounds and gestures that I make reveal what's in my heart. If what is in my heart is dark and melancholy and Eeyorish, then my body language, facial expressions, sounds, words and gestures are going to mirror dark, melancholy and Eeyorish.
If I frown, lean forward, hunch my shoulders, bare my teeth, squint my eyes and make a growling sound then....you get the idea.

The fact is that very, very few people actually put into effect major life changes. Can we challenge ourselves to become one of the few?

More to follow... Peace, Kim

Friday, April 11, 2008

P4E.066 Eye of the Tiger

(5th in a series on predator patterning)

A friend's wife left him recently. He described one of his frustrations like this:

"There were times when we would be having an argument. At a certain point she would just stop talking, turn on her heel and walk away from me. It's so frustrating, because she would just stop talking and that would be it."

It reminded me of some things my wife, Gwen, has expressed to me. She has said things like, "Arguing with you is like arguing with a Philadelphia lawyer." "I knew you were going to say that! I knew you were going to bring that up!" "You're like a dog with a bone. You just can't let go." "You have to get the last word in. You think you're so right. You don't listen. It's like we're in a competition. You think you have to win."

One wife who wrote me recently said, "As I read this on Prey Patterning, I couldn't help but relate to the prey from the perspective of a wife hiding from or being victimized by her husband's flesh."

Let's do a little experiment. (You might want to do this in front of a mirror.) Pretend as though your wife has just told you something that you don't understand or disagree with. What do you physically do? For instance, do you:

1. Knit your eyebrows (frown).
2. Squint your eyes.
3. Open your mouth (bares your teeth).
4. Shake your head.
5. Jut your jaw out.
6. Hiss under your breath "What?" or "Tsk!" or exhale loudly or "Grrrrrrrr".
7. Put your hands on your hips and/or shrug your shoulders.
8. Raise your voice.
9. Lean forward and/or push your chest out.
10. Point at her or make big hand gestures or shake your finger at her .

Can you see how any of these facial expressions, sounds or gestures could be interpreted as "predatory?" When we act this way towards our wives they perceive us as predators. Many times they respond like prey, as my friend's wife did. She tried to avoid detection by going silent, then turned on her heel and fled. When we would argue, my wife would feel trapped in a crazy making, circular logic, out of control, threatening, mind bending maze. She used to feel like she was in a no win situation. (Like she was going to get eaten up?) I could not be dissuaded from my straight line thinking. She would also just walk away or leave, just to get away from me.

I believe that many times our wives feel more bound by their commitment to Christ (or if not Believers, to simple decency) than we men do. I admit that when in an argument with my wife, my thoughts are far from Christlike. Gwen did not want our children to see a bad example in her, even if I was going to make an ass out of myself. A mother will put up with a lot and even redirect a predator's gaze from her children to herself if she feels her children are in danger. To accomplish this, they can "go silent"and encourage the children to do the same. The camouflage of a neat, quiet, well-run household with dinner on the table when he gets home can keep the predator distracted and calm. Not engaging in an argument keeps her conscience clear and herself and her children out of harm's way.

Prey animals know that predators are very predictable. Prey animals are extremely perceptive and reactive. Speedy flight is their first response. Clinton Anderson, the well known horse trainer, says that if a horse "smells, thinks or even imagines that there's danger...then there's danger! And the bigger head start they have the better their chances of survival." Wives have the same sense.

More to follow....
Your ally in the pursuit of Christlikeness, Kim

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

P4E.065 Stating the Obvious

(4th in a series on predator patterning)

We've been talking about predator patterning. The fact is that predators are violent. They hunt, stalk, chase, attack, kill and eat for their own selfish purposes.

I know that I'm going to enter a controversial area here. It's dangerous anytime one tries to make generalizations, stereotypes, or broad brush statements about groups. There's always an exception to the rule and few people rejoice at the idea that they can be categorized in any way. Nevertheless, like me, you've probably heard at one time or another of man/woman relationships referred to as predator/prey relationships. Some men relish the thought of being perceived as a predator, while others are offended by it.

Some women revolt at and resent the idea that they might be perceived as prey. Still, other womens' experience warrants the description. According to the website, www.endabuse.org:

+ Nearly one-third of American women (31 percent) report being physically or sexually abused by a husband or boyfriend at some point in their lives, according to a 1998 Commonwealth Fund survey.

+ Nearly 25 percent of American women report being raped and/or physically assaulted by a current or former spouse, cohabiting partner, or date at some time in their lifetime, according to the National Violence Against Women Survey, conducted from November 1995 to May 1996.

+ It is estimated that up to three million American women are physically abused by their husband or boyfriend per year.

I'm going to state the obvious: It is unacceptable for a man to physically or sexually abuse a woman or a child. You may think that since I'm writing mostly to Christian husbands and fathers I shouldn't have to state the obvious. The Barna Group's polls tell us that about 42% of the American population identifies itself as "born-again Christian." We might conclude that there are 1.26 million men per year who physically or sexually abuse their wives and girlfriends and identify themselves as "Christians." One is too many.

In future posts we'll discuss pre-physical/emotional/spiritual abuse as well, but I thought we should state the obvious first. I hope that this post doesn't apply to you. But, if the shoe fits.......

Your Ally in the Pursuit of Christlikeness, Kim

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

P4E.064 Prey Patterning

(3rd in a series on predator patterning)

I've been using the example of horses and humans as a parallel to human to human relationships. Horses are prototypical prey animals. Humans appear to be predators to them until and unless the human stops acting like a predator. To understand what makes us seem like predators, we have to understand prey patterning.

So what characterizes prey patterning?
Prey behavior is that which avoids the pursuit, capture, killing and eating by predators. Most species are potential prey for another animal at least sometime during their lives.

Silence, Camouflage and Disguise
The first line of defense for many prey is to avoid being detected by the predator. Many prey minimize the noise they make and the resulting silence makes it more difficult for the predator to find them. Other prey reduce visual cues that the predator might use to locate them. They utilize camouflage coloration that blends their bodies into the background making it difficult for visual predators to find them. Many moths, common prey for birds, look like the bark of trees on which they rest during the day. Snowshoe hares have brown fur in the summer but white fur in the winter to blend with a snow covered environment. Many prey remain as still as possible when a predator approaches to avoid detection. When threatened, some prey make themselves appear larger to fool the predator into thinking that the prey is a more daunting kill. Some prey use disguises that make them appear to be a different, more menacing, animal.

Eye Placement
Many prey animals have their eyes placed on the sides of their heads as opposed to the front of their head. This gives them more than 180 degrees in their line of sight and increases their ability to spot predators.

Flight / Speed
If spotted, many prey have a second line of defense: speedy flight. Many prey species are very fast runners, swimmers, or fliers, and often use their speed to flee a predator in hopes of escape.

Even if a prey is spotted and caught, or cornered, the result is often not a foregone conclusion. Many prey successfully deter a predatory attempt by fighting back. A healthy adult moose is able to use its hooves and antlers as lethal weapons against its predators.

Physical Characteristics
Some animals have physical characteristics that make it difficult for a predator to get them into their mouth. Many fish and insects have spines that prevent a predatory fish or bird from being able to eat them. Some prey make themselves larger if threatened, again making it more difficult for the predator to ingest the prey.

Social Behavior
Many prey use social behavior as a predatory defense. Most predators have to single out and focus on an individual in order to successfully capture a prey. Many species of fish and birds travel in groups. These schools and flocks often move very quickly in a highly synchronized fashion which is believed to make it difficult for the predators to single any individual out. The quick movement is confusing to them. In some cases, a group of prey is able to successfully fight off a predatory attack, whereas an individual prey probably would not be able to do this.

Some seldom fall prey to predators because they employ a final line of defense: toxicity. They are poisonous. Predators learn to avoid them.

Let's end with this: We are, all of us, prey. Spiritual prey, all of the time. Sin is one of our predators. It is "lying in wait for you, ready to pounce; it's out to get you..." (The Message). Our predators are spiritual "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." (King James Version) We can learn some lessons from prey patterning on how to avoid or fight against our predators, but we should also learn this: Ultimately, we need a savior.

"Blessed be the LORD, who hath not given us as a prey to their teeth. Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of fowlers, the snare is broken, and we are escaped. Our help is in the name of the LORD who made heaven and earth." Psalm 124:6-8 (KJV)

More to follow! Peace, Kim

PS - An incredible example of predator/prey is shown in YouTube's 2007 Award Winner in the category of Eyewitness, called Battle at Kruger. Worth seeing. http://www.youtube.com/ytawards07winners