Tolerance of others depends on how you view their status

When I look at Grace, I see an adorable, innocent creature. My tolerance of her actions is very high. How I view others impacts how I think of their worth, too.

That bunny is still on my mind.

Those who saw my last post know I was quite upset by Grace’s actions earlier this week. Some might say, “Get over it.” And I will. For the record, I do know that this situation isn’t the end of the world, nor does it rank up with the really critical issues of today, such as those without a home or a job, or the effects of war.

It’s not like I can’t function or that I’m not sleeping. (Just in case any of you reading this, including my husband, might be worried about my mental stability.)

But I do think that events that move you are ones that give you an opportunity for deeper thought and exploration, if you choose to delve into it. One of the things that bothered me was my role in how those few minutes unfolded. I’ve replayed the scene and thought of things I could have, and should have, done differently. Supportive comments made on the blog and to my personal email (thank you all) helped me through that a lot, but I’m still ultimately responsible.

And I look at my sweet, innocent, Grace that I adore, and think to myself: “How could you have done such a deadly act to something that wasn’t even threatening you?”

Then despite my sense of incomprehension of her actions, I find myself with an even deeper level of appreciation and love for her. How does that work?

But perhaps the biggest jolt was a realization of my attitude towards what she killed. In talking with friends here, several pointed out that it was likely not a wild rabbit, but a domestic one that had gotten loose, perhaps by mistake, or perhaps purposely ousted by its owner. Knowing this could have been someone’s pet made it a hundred times worse to me. And that bothered me.

In the rabbit world, why would a wild bunny be less important than a domestic bunny? It’s like saying that a nurse is less important than a doctor. Or a manufacturing worker is less critical to the success of a product launch than her manager is. Yet we know culturally, that’s the way our system works, even though intellectually we know it shouldn’t be that way. In our organizations, we look at status via the position the person holds and how we perceive their ranking in the larger scheme of things.

And here I am, realizing that my horror is intensified for the wrong reasons. Yes, the big difference is that people’s lives were likely also impacted if this rabbit had an indoor home, but it’s more than that. Rabbits rank higher on my sensitivity scale than a pesky squirrel (which I must confess, Grace has made dinner of before on two occasions). Those were terrible occurrences, too, but they just didn’t have the same impact on me and that’s the point I’m living out this week.

The tolerance we have and our willingness to accept, support, and appreciate another being is directly related to how we perceive their status. Are they worth our time? Our energy? Our sadness? Our protection?

And my fear is that worthy beings, in all kinds of settings, may not get the attention they deserve. Do you have a pesky squirrel or wild rabbit in your organization that deserves to be treated better?

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  1. Pepi Noble on March 24, 2012 at 7:48 am

    Robin – you give us much to think about. We can all apply this to situations we’ve been in, whether animal or human. It reminds me much of what I see and read about every day. Thank you for your honesty and compassion.

    • Robin on March 24, 2012 at 9:09 am

      Thank you so much, Pepi, for sharing your thoughts. It means a lot to me.

  2. Renee Charney on March 26, 2012 at 9:40 am

    Robin — This particular post hit home for me. (although…everything you submit tends to do the same for me!) What resonates for me with this post is that it provides me with another piece of evidence that we, as humans, tend to lean into our assessments about the experiences and people around us. She looks like a “squirrel” and those who look like her from my past were like [fill in assessment here]. He’s such a beautiful “rabbit”, I’m sure his intentions are right and good. [another assertion]. Grace’s action was driven by who she is. We can look at the outcome with an assertion of “she’s bad” or with one of “she’s a dog, doing dog-like things.” Another reminder for me to step back, assess the situation, and see it for what it really is and not what I interpret it to be.

    • Robin on March 27, 2012 at 12:16 pm

      Renee, this is an amazing look at this situation. How incredibly true that we too quickly fall back and rely on beliefs that may or may not be accurate, (including how I viewed this rabbit!!) How different our outcomes would be if we stopped to remove our immediate interpretation from the mix. Thank you, as always, for adding your wisdom.

  3. Kas on March 26, 2012 at 5:59 pm

    What a great post, and made me think as well. Should I be more upset that Evee killed my pet hamster instead of Diesel killing a wild squirrel? Who’s to say which life has greater value or meaning? Thought-provoking!

    • Robin on March 27, 2012 at 12:18 pm

      Thanks, Kas, great to see you here. It is an interesting, and tough, question, isn’t it, about whether one life has greater value than another.

  4. Pam on March 27, 2012 at 9:11 am

    Interesting post – the title really caught my attention because I had just heard that morning on NPR about a study done about self-esteem and Facebook (https://pss.sagepub.com/content/early/2012/02/07/0956797611429709.abstract) that actually addresses the response of others depending on how you view their Facebook status…an interesting correlation to your post here.

    • Robin on March 27, 2012 at 12:45 pm

      Thanks, Pam, for adding this additional information; I appreciate you sharing the link, too. It seems that unexpected outcomes are evident with people, too. So interesting!! Thank you again for sharing!

  5. Lionel Lloyd on April 30, 2012 at 11:05 pm

    Nice post Robin. I have fallen victim to the idea that one life deserves more sympathy than others. For the record, I’m not that crazy about squirrels either. I thought a lot about it and I suppose it may be because In the case of the bunny, squirrels are destructive and can be a menace even though they are just trying to stay alive. Bunnies, on the other hand are well, bunnies. They don’t ruin bird feeders, or build nests in your attic. They eat grass and maybe a vegetable or two. That’s it. Plus they’re cute.

    • Robin on May 2, 2012 at 8:43 pm

      Glad I’m not alone in this feeling. I most definitely felt differently about the situation just by plugging in a different animal that was involved (squirrel versus rabbit). Made me think long and hard about myself.

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