I feel blessed that I don’t have an irrational fear of animals. As a kid, I never learned that snakes are gross, bats are evil, or that bees are dangerous. Even though I have a scar that runs down the side of my face from a cat that scratched me as a baby, I do not fear them. Actually, I love them and have rescued many over the years.
When I was a tween, I watched a little kid cower and cry when a friendly neighborhood dog approached him. I remember my mom making a comment, that it was sad that kid was afraid of dogs. That he was afraid because his mother was afraid and he learned it.
I think there is some truth to that. My mom did teach me to be responsible and use good judgment when it came to animals. The usual stuff—don’t approach dogs you don’t know, don’t touch sick or dead animals, don’t panic when a bee lands on you.
Beyond that though, I can’t recall ever observing my mom get squeamish at the sight of a snake or rat. We kept rodents as pets and she was the one who showed me that if you threw little pebbles in the air at dusk, you could get the bats to swoop down from the trees and show off their acrobatics.
I’m fairly sure though, that we squished our fair share of spiders. My husband was the one who broke me of the habit; the one who suggested it was more cruel than mindless. Years ago when I discovered one crawling along our bedroom wall, I called my husband in to kill it. He refused. He told me to do it, but I didn’t want to. He asked me if my hesitation was based on fear or guilt. I didn’t answer him and instead chose to get angry and accused him of being ridiculous. In actuality, it was a little of both.
I don’t kill spiders anymore. Usually, I just ignore them in the house, unless they’re unusually large, in which case I’ll scoop them up in a cup and release them outside. I never regret the extra effort. Actually, it makes me feel great. Oddly, my husband does kill spiders now, though he didn’t for a while. The spider-in-the-bedroom incident was easily 10 years ago and I don’t think he remembers it. I think he chooses the quick kill because it’s more convenient but I know if he spared the life and released the bug outside, he would also feel great.
My boss will kill just about anything that comes onto his property, snakes, gophers, bugs of all varieties. He’s not cruel, but he doesn’t like them and never learned to be merciful toward them. He laughs when I somewhat playfully lecture him about it. He also laughs when I scoop up the spiders in the office and release them in the garden outside. When his kids were in the office a few months back and saw a bug, they swiftly killed it and proclaimed it a victory. It made me sad.
I learned to love all animals from my mom and my soft heart eventually grew to include compassion for most insects as well. I hope my kid will learn the same from me. Maybe her compassion will also grow to include something more than I have been able to because although fear can be learned, compassion can be too. The best way for our kids to learn it, is for their parents to live it. ∞
Why do you suppose we kill bugs so easily? Is it out of fear, convenience, curiosity? Comments welcome.