December 29, 2021
The first dog I owned as an adult was a mixed-breed puppy I bought in a Walmart parking lot a few months before I married. His name was Soren. He was full of energy and had a bad habit of running off when presented with the opportunity. Just after my wife and I bought our first house, he managed to get out of the yard. He never simply ran off. It was a game to him to make us chase him. The road that traveled past our new home was very busy and at this particular time there were many cars driving past. The dog, of course, didn’t understand the danger and ran back and forth across the street. I yelled and chased him, trying to get him to get away from traffic. He was having a great time playing with me until he was hit by a car and killed. That was many years ago, but my wife and I still talk about our puppy from time to time.
Over the years I have come to realize that Soren was doing what many of us do or watch our loved ones do regularly. We come across something that is cool or fun or fashionable, and we have fun without thinking about the potential dangers associated. I had a good friend years ago, who began innocently flirting with a coworker. As time progressed, he began to complain to her about his marriage, which is funny because he invested more time and energy into the relationship with the woman who wasn’t his wife. It was fun, whereas, for his marriage to be fun, he needed to do the required work. Ultimately, his flirtation with this woman turned into an affair that cost him his job, his career, his marriage, and a significant part of his relationship with his children. It was fun for my friend, until it wasn’t. One of the crazy parts of life is how easy it is to see these bouts of “playing in traffic” and the dangers associated with it, in the lives of others. In our own lives, we tend to be blind to the dangers associated with our choices. The fun and excitement can be intoxicating, which leaves us unaware of the dangers we are flirting with. This is especially true in the era of the internet, where we can indulge in all manner of vices with the false sense that our actions are hidden. In the end, very little is actually hidden in our world and nothing is invisible to God. I knew an addictions counselor who used to say: “Denial only hides the truth from ourselves, but everyone else can see it.” I believe that the only way to safeguard our lives from the danger posed by unknowingly playing in places that could result in losing ourselves, the ones we love, or our lives, is to have significant relationships with people around us. I am not just referring to longtime friends. I am talking about people we tell everything to. People who are wise and can offer good counsel. There is nothing more valuable in the world than a friend you can confide your struggles, shame, worry, or feelings to. These are rare relationships, and they are risky. It is a genuine risk talking to another person about real, significant things. So much of a risk that most people are simply too afraid to do it. I believe it is the reason studies have found that most men do not have any close friends. Being vulnerable is more intimidating than simply being lonely. Sadly, loneliness is rarely the end of the negatives associated with isolation. Addiction, depression, anxiety, poor financial decisions, and other passing cars are the dangers associated with playing in traffic in these ways. The only fix to this is having people in our lives who can tell us the truth or offer perspectives on the decisions we are making.