Are You a Turtle or a Skunk?

“Let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”
I John 3:18

My mom says there are two kinds of people in the world: skunks and turtles. When skunks get upset, they make a big stink, and everybody knows about it for miles around. But when turtles get upset, they quietly pull into their shell, and most people might not even notice.

I’m a turtle. That’s not to say I don’t ever have skunk-ish moments. I do. But for the post part, whenever I’m sad or hurt or angry, I withdraw. And the deeper the hurt, the more distant I become.

It’s tempting to label the skunks as more destructive, and perhaps outwardly they are. But turtles can be inwardly destructive. I may not get together with others to gossip about whatever situation is bothering me, and I may not engage in an openly hostile fallout, but when I’m hurting, I tend to cope by eating too many French fries and keeping to myself.

These may sound like mild offenses, but in reality, my withdrawal is the same thing as choosing not to love certain people who have hurt me. And let’s face it, I’m only hurting myself with all those fries!

The two greatest commandments are to love God and love others (Matthew 22:37-39). I’m cool with the “loving God” part. It’s the “loving others” part that can be a challenge – especially when someone has been particularly hurtful.

On that note, it’s important to distinguish between forgiving and loving. When Paul admonishes us to “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances [we] may have against one another,” he doesn’t stop there. He goes on to encourage us to “put on love” (Colossians 3:13-14).

In other words, forgiving from a distance isn’t enough. Even praying blessings over my “enemies” isn’t enough either. God’s highest calling is to love “with actions,” and I can’t do that very easily from afar.

So that is this turtle’s challenge: to be intentional about loving with actions and in truth. That means getting outside of myself – outside of my shell – and engaging lovingly with the very ones who gave me cause to withdraw in the first place.

This is a re-post from 2010.


2 thoughts on “Are You a Turtle or a Skunk?

  1. Howdy. I am definitely a turtle. Your comment: “But turtles can be inwardly destructive.” is right on target for me. I learned to be a turtle growing up as a defense mechanism. After 50 years that life of the turtle eventually led to severe depression and ultimately a complete breakdown. The last 13 years have been spent learning how not to always be a turtle. It’s a tough challenge, and means knowing, hearing, and experiencing God’s grace and forgiveness. Thanks for your words today.

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