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There are No Bad Dogs

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Carl Thomas
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Pastor | Live Free Founder | Lover of Jesus, Philly sports, fitness, tattoos, sarcasm, and craft beers.

I’ve had dogs almost all my life.

To be honest, I can’t imagine having a home without a dog. They add so much to the family dynamic.

Over those years I’ve had to train many puppies. Sometimes the training went smooth, but most of the time it was a pain in the butt. 

  • Chewed up furniture.
  • Missing slippers and underwear.
  • Pee stains and piles of poop left strategically in high traffic areas of the house.

Yet all in all, it was worth the hassle. And we’ve always ended up with a “good” dog in the end.

Why?

Because we loved them.
Because we made them feel safe.
Because they learned through experience that they didn’t have to fear us.

But not all dogs are “good.” Some are “bad.”

Or are they?

The reality is there is no such thing as a “bad” dog, or at least morally speaking. Dogs have no moral agency. They simply do what they determine instinctually to be the best choice. 

And that is what separates man from beast.

Unlike dogs, humans can evaluate their choices based on a set of values and beliefs. Dogs don’t have that luxury. They only know what life has conditioned them to expect.

A dog that has been loved and nurtured by people will most likely be happy when they meet someone new. After all, life has taught them that people mean love, hugs, and kisses.

But a dog that has been abused and abandoned won’t behave the same way when it comes to their interactions. Rather than a hug and kiss, you’re more likely to see them run or be treated to a growl and possibly even a bite. 

And why?

Not because the aggressive dog is bad; rather it’s simply following survival instincts it has learned due to unfortunate life experiences.

Why is this important?

REAL PEOPLE. REAL COMMUNITY. REAL FREEDOM.

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Because the same mammal brain that drives a dog to do what it does is the same mammal brain that’s inside you and me. And just like a dog, when we grow up in environments or have life experiences that have caused us wounds of trauma; because of our experiences we develop survival strategies to get through the emotional stress we face each day… like porn and sex.

This is not to say that choosing to act out sexually isn’t a morally poor decision.

Again…

  • Humans do have the benefit of moral agency. 
  • Humans do have the ability to make judgements based on their values and beliefs.
  • Humans do have a more evolved high brain to go along with its mammal brain.

But when we’ve experienced hurt, abuse, abandonment, neglect, bullying, marginalization, or indifference, it becomes difficult for us to utilize higher cognitive functions during emotionally charged situations.

And so like our mammal counterparts, sometimes we choose to do the “bad” thing rather than the “good” thing because instinctually (not morally) it makes the most sense.

Simply put, we are trying to survive albeit in the worst way possible.

I share this not to excuse sexually compulsive behavior. Nor should this give us a pass to act out when we feel the need to do so. We have choices and, unlike a dog, those choices can be good and/or bad.

But understand that often the frustration you face surrounding your sexually addictive choices should be directed at your lack of mental wellness and emotional regulation rather than your “corrupt” character. 

Yes, when you choose to act out that’s “bad.” Likewise, the damage done by that choice is also “bad” and even painful. But it doesn’t mean you are “bad.” It means you are wounded and need healing. 

Because unlike a dog who has a ceiling on its ability to make rational and value-based decisions, you do not. You are not a dog and you do have options. You just need to make the decision to pursue the recovery your brain and soul requires.

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