A Christian Science perspective.
This saying may already be familiar to dog lovers, and it's also becoming familiar to Americans as part of their bumper-sticker philosophy. To me, it expresses a lovely ideal. It connotes that a happier, more unconditional approach outweighs a confrontational or raucous one. Wouldn't it be great if we could adopt this viewpoint for more of our interactions?
A powerful acknowledgment in support of this perspective comes from "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" in which the author, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote, "All of God's creatures, moving in the harmony of Science, are harmless, useful, indestructible" (p. 514). Recognizing that this applies to any discordant or uncomfortable situation helps defuse its harshness, regardless of whether it involves animals or people.
Many years ago, when I was working for a sales firm and going door to door, I encountered a barking dog that was lunging at me from its tether. Although startled, I saw no obvious danger and went on to my next contact. Completing that task, I noticed that the dog was now off its chain, barking wildly, and had situated itself between me and my car.
Standing frozen in place, I prayed. Striving to see my indestructible, spiritual nature and the dog's harmlessness as one of God's creatures, I began slowly to make my way to the car. Once inside, I sat quietly for a moment with my eyes closed, fighting back my anger at the careless owner. Being grateful that I hadn't been harmed, and feeling calmer, I then looked out the car window and saw the dog wagging its tail at me. I realized that this happy dog just wanted to play. What I originally thought was a scary animal to be avoided was really just a sweet pet, enthusiastically looking for a friend.
That lesson of mistaken identity has stayed with me. What I learned was this: To judge a situation purely by the picture presented may be to completely misconstrue it. Seeking a higher view – one that reveals a safer and sweeter picture – can be not only more productive, but more progressive as well. As Jesus put it, stated in John's Gospel, "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment" (7:24).