Sometimes, we get defensive. It happens. At times when we feel that our credibility, or our good character is being questioned. Sometimes, we act on our defensive feelings. Other times, we remain quiet. And plan. For retaliation.
Okay, I am just joking about the retaliation thing. We don’t do that. I mean, who would do something that undermining? Well. Besides the President, but that is for another day.
But here is the thing of being defensive. We are not alone. It happens in nature on a daily basis. And some creatures are very well equipped for defensive behavior.
Like down in the land of BBQ and Ten-Gallon-Hats. The Texas Horned Lizard. It is pretty ugly. If you see it just walking-down-the-street-ugly. Craggy. Spikey. Horny. In a horned way. It has a camouflaged nature about it, this Horned Lizard. As if that was not enough, to ward off predators, this reptile has the ability to squirt blood. Out of its eyes. And it can aim like a mother. The stream of blood is mixed with a foul-tasting chemical that wards off predators. It can shoot the stuff from about five feet away.
Unfortunately, for the lizard, they are decreasing in population, due to our human population, moving them out of their habitats. No matter how much blood they are shooting at the folks down there. Bulldozers are bigger, I suppose.
Then there is another creature from Africa. A frog. Specifically, the Central African Hairy Frog. The males grow these “hairy” strands on their bodies, which allow them to suck in more oxygen. Somehow, this helps them while they are watching over their baby frog eggs. But that isn’t the defensive part. These frogs break their own toe bones and push them out through the skin of their feet. They become really sharp claws. And then they scratch the living daylights out of their would-be predators. After the fight, the bones slide back into the skin. These little frogs are like Wolverine. They could be Mutants from X-Men, I think. Or. Orrrr. Wait. Aren’t there already Teenage Mutant Frogs somewhere?
There are a LOT of other animals with defense tactics. Exploding Termites. Sea Cucumbers who shoot organs right out of their little butts. A fish that slimes people. All sorts.
But I would be sorely remiss if I did not mention the opossum. Right here in my backyard. We typically refer to the “possum’s” infamous defense mechanism as “playing dead.” But the truth is, there is no “playing” about it. The act is completely involuntary.
Here is the deal. Most people don’t like them because they think they are ugly. Which they are not. But. When they sense a predator, they get so very scared they can’t stand themselves. Scared right out of their wits. So, opossums fall into a comatose-like state that can last for hours. And hopefully, it will be long enough to convince any predator that the opossum is already dead. But not just dead. Also, repulsive. You see, they also let off a “stink” in this phase. A corpse-like smell that only adds to their act. But. The “Way of the Possum” is one of peace.
I know this, because we have one that lives in our stone wall out at the edge of the meadow. And every night, when Ollie goes out, she finds the possum and barks like crazy at the thing. The possum goes dead. Ollie nudges its. Barks. Nudges. And then Ollie finally grows tired of the nightly routine and comes back inside, with her muzzle all muddy and smelling like a possum-corpse. Delightful.
But I like the Opossum. They eat venomous snakes. They snack on lots of ticks and the crawlies – like around 4000 insects a week. So they can play dead here.
As for our own defenses? Defensiveness is often a response to criticism. The best thing is trying not to react. Like playing dead. And then the next thing we do is thinking. In that moment, we can focus on our own very best qualities and passions. We can remember our high standards. Our virtues, and our good worth.
We play a little dead and alive at the same time. Alive in ourselves and our good measure. In the “Way of the Possum,” we keep the peace.
“Never forget that once upon a time, in an unguarded moment, you recognized yourself as a friend.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert
“One of the greatest regrets in life is being what others would want you to be, rather than being yourself.”
― Shannon L. Alder
“Your crown has been bought and paid for. Put it on your head and wear it.” Dr. Maya Angelou