Let me ask you a question. If you believe in positive reinforcement training for dogs, what do you believe when it comes to people? Professional trainers advise us to teach our dogs through positive reinforcement, and the Bible teaches us to “love one another” and to edify others. Tonight, after I had secured paralyzed Mercy into her wheelchair to take her outside for her evening adventure, I had the reminder, and opportunity, to reflect on how I would answer this question myself.

“I’m proud of you, Mercy,” I told her as I pushed her wheelchair toward the doorway. Wow, I thought to myself, that’s still so new for me. Along with negative reinforcement received from the world around me for as long as I can remember, I have spent just as much time doing the very same to others. Negativity breeds negativity; condemnation breeds condemnation.

“Bad dog, bad dog,” I have heard myself say all too often. “Bad person, bad person,” I have heard people tell me in their own way. “Bad person, bad person,” I  have spoken in my own way to others.

But walking with the Lord and studying His Word for long enough have turned up the very same conclusion as dog trainers seeking the very best way to get dogs to behave. Love works. Positive reinforcement works. Edification works. Praise works. A pat on the back works. As the Bible says, “Love never fails.”

Earlier tonight, I told a beloved friend: “I’m proud of you.” She was, quite frankly, surprised. Apparently, she doesn’t hear that very often. When my ex-husband was near death for an extended period of time in the hospital, I told him over and again as he endured, “I’m proud of you.” Why had I never thought to say this in our marriage? I was too busy focusing on the negative, thereby breeding more negative.

Looking back at my childhood, of which I still remember relatively little, I do recall desperately wanting to hear two statements from my father. I wanted to hear, “I love you.” And, I wanted to hear “I’m proud of you.” I remember finding out from someone who worked for my father that he was proud of me. Wow. How I longed to hear it from his own heart and mouth.

Now, I can only imagine how many people and dogs in my life have longed to hear – and feel, and see – these two statements from myself.

I love you. I am proud of you.

Paralyzed Mercy did not just hear the words from me tonight. She felt them from me. She felt the Lord’s love in me, and she heard the Lord’s love come out of my mouth.

I have a long way to go when it comes to positive reinforcement, but then maybe I don’t. Jesus is the answer, and He isn’t far away at all. He’s right inside me, and He is the source of everything positive in my life. I don’t need a training manual to learn about positive reinforcement. I already have one. God’s Word. Him. His love. His power. His strength. His grace. His mercy. His compassion. His peace.

Dear Lord, Thank you for forgiving me for all the times I have not walked or spoken in your love. Thank you for breathing your love into me. Thank you for teaching me to love like you. Thank you for filling me with your love. Thank you for being proud of me, dear Father, even as I am. Thank you for teaching me to love and edify those around me – whether human or canine. Thank you for teaching me the way of your love. Thank you for your Word that instructs me, and your Holy Spirit that empowers me to love. Speaking of love, Lord, I love you! And, dear Father, I am proud to call you my Father. Thank you for calling me your daughter. Amen. 

Rom 14:19  Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. 

1Th 5:11  Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do. 

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