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A neighbor's barking dog, peace of mind, and prayer

A Christian Science perspective.

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The problem started when we asked our neighbors to keep their dog inside at night so his barking wouldn't wake us up. We felt we were justified because the 24-hour barking disturbed us constantly.

When our requests were ignored, my husband filed a complaint with the animal control department. Our neighbors responded with anger that took a serious toll on our peace of mind. The lack of responsibility they showed and diminished respect we had for one another became unbearable. This continued until the animal control officer declared the dog a public nuisance.

We became a target of hatred. In addition to the tension between our families, garbage was thrown over the fence from their porch into our yard when they had parties.

I longed for peace, and prayed continually about the situation. Each day I looked across our yard toward their house, trying to love them despite everything. Sometime later, the husband was deployed overseas, and his departure made me feel that I had failed at loving my neighbor.

A conversation from the Bible helped me. A man once asked Jesus, "Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (Matt. 22:36–39). There seems to be no wiggle room in this commandment.

As I was thinking about how specific it is, I had a sudden insight. Suppose, instead of complaining about their dog, I'd been spraying a garden hose at my neighbor? If I wanted peace and healing, I would have to be willing to put the hose down first, then ask for forgiveness. So long as I was doing what was making him angry, the feud would continue.

A healing shift in thought came once I stopped trying to justify having done things in a certain way because of what I believed others had done to me. I began by letting go of every conceivable reason why things had gotten to this point. If I wanted peace, I had to stop doing what had upset my neighbors in the first place; I had to stop complaining about the dog. I realized that I could not be the victim of a barking dog, or an unforgiving neighbor, and neither could they. The desire was to love my neighbor as Jesus loved – unconditionally.

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