Look beyond the surface

Tales from the front pew

Fear is a multifaceted emotion. It can be a catalyst for many things: depression, inaction, even anger.

Often, when people (and animals) feel cornered, the first line of defense is lashing out at others.

My daughter, Val, and I witnessed this the other day when we took our kitten, Tiger, to the veterinarian for vaccinations.

Tiger is a very loveable kitty — fun, energetic and mischievous. On this particular morning, however, we saw a different side of her … and it wasn’t pretty.

Everything started out fine. We had no trouble coaxing her into the cat carrier, and she seemed to enjoy the short car ride to the vet’s office.

But, once we stepped inside, there was a distinct change in Tiger’s demeanor.

As I attempted to extricate her from the carrier, she made it clear she wasn’t going anywhere, burrowing so far back that she was in danger of becoming “one” with the interior wall.

First, I tried reasoning with her. “Come on out, Tiger, so the nice doctor can take care of you, and then we’ll go home and get some yummy treats.”

Then begging, “Please Tiger…come out for mommy, OK?”


It was clearly time for reinforcements.

“Val, honey, why don’t you try?”

“Uh uh. No way,” she answered. “She looks annoyed, and I’m not going to risk it.”

Val had an unfortunate experience several years ago with an agitated cat, and it left psychological scars. It left some actual scars, too, so I couldn’t blame her for being reluctant.

The vet decided to take the lid off the carrier, providing easier access. When he reached inside to lift Tiger out, our sweet little kitty transformed into a hissing, growling maniacal ball of infuriated fur.

“She’s never like this,” I told the vet, who had taken a hasty step away from the carrier. “She’s usually very sweet.”

“It’s perfectly understandable,” he said, edging toward the door. “She’s frightened to be in a strange environment with people she’s never seen before. Now, if you’ll excuse me for a minute … Jennifer, can you come in here? We’re having a, uh, situation.”

Apparently, Jennifer had been through this drill before, since she hurried in carrying a soft towel and wearing padded, elbow-length gloves.

It wasn’t easy, but they administered the required shots and secured Tiger back inside her carrier.

I noticed the doctor scribbling something on a sheet of paper, which he then showed to Val and me. He’d drawn a cat face, and it was wearing a frown.

“I’m sorry,” he said with a smile, “But Tiger gets a frowny face for her behavior today. It’ll go in her file. This way, when she comes in for her next appointment, we’ll know to be extra cautious.”

I was tempted to tell the vet that this label was unfair because Tiger was a sweetheart under normal circumstances, but I figured the poor guy had been through enough.

Fear does strange things to people. Jesus looks beyond our surface and into our hearts. Maybe we should do the same.

The next time you encounter an angry person, don’t label him or her, but consider what might be happening on the inside.