I recently began a mini-series on axioms. An axiom is a statement that is generally thought to be true and which is often used as a starting point for further dialogue. Bottom line — an axiom is a pithy saying that is self-evident and that most people believe.

I began the series with an axiom I call, “the vacuum cleaner syndrome.” It suggests that most of us avoid truly big issues because they intimidate us, but when it’s time to buy a vacuum cleaner we all have an opinion because we all own one and consider ourselves to have expertise on the topic.

Today’s axiom is not original with me, it was coined by a friend who has quite a way with words. He puts it this way: “Always walk toward the barking dog.”

A quick appraisal of this axiom reveals that dogs are pack animals and as such will always defer to the Alpha male. If you run fearfully from a barking dog it delivers a clear message that you are deferring, that the dog is in fact the Alpha, and that you are an easy target for his amusement and teeth.

Facing a barking dog and moving towards it does not mean you’ll never get bit, but it does deliver the message that you are not afraid and are not about to cower in the face of fangs.

Life is full of barking dogs, literal and figurative. Whether it was the boogey-man hiding under our bed in childhood years or a vindictive employer looking to rid him or herself of expensive, experienced employees, life’s barking dogs cannot always be explained away as groundless paranoia. They do exist baring their fearful and imposing teeth.

The problem they present is one labelled by popular author Joseph Grenny as the fool’s choice. The fool’s choice is the belief that I either need to run or get bit; it’s the belief that there is no safe way to confront the problem.

Conversely, today’s axiom suggests that the most constructive way to face the fiercest barking dogs is head on.

One bible story with which most are familiar, even if they know little else of the bible, is the story of David and Goliath. Goliath was a fearsome, hulking giant. Described in terms of my axiom, he was a fiercely barking dog.

For days he intimidated an entire group of soldiers until one youngster had the guts to face him directly. The youngster, by the way, was cognizant of the fact he was facing Goliath with the help of Almighty God.

You know the result.

The ultimate purpose of today’s axiom is two-fold: First, to invite you to identify which barking dogs are currently intimidating you and causing you to walk the other direction; and second, to invite you to consider finding a more constructive approach.

Perhaps, like David, with the help of God you can face the giants in your life and experience a freedom from the fear that holds you back.

Tim Schroeder is pastor at Trinity Baptist Church in Kelowna. This is a regular column in Okanagan Weekend.

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