Looking for dogs in a society of cats

Published 9:06 pm Friday, November 29, 2013

By Chris Surber

I love dogs. From their smushy, wet noses to their overwhelming loyalty and desire to please the humans they love, they are simply fantastic. I hate cats. From their sandpaper tongues to their bad attitudes, they are untrainable, loathsome creatures.

I’ll grant that for the rare untrainable annoying dog there is a sweet cat, but in this case the exception certainly does not negate the rule.

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Dogs are great. They want to follow their leader. Not only do they want to do so, it’s really literally in their DNA to do so. In the wild, a pack of wolves, the domestic dog’s close cousin, establishes a hierarchy that allows the pack to hunt successfully. They develop a complex society that in many ways mimics human society.

Wild cousins to domestic cats, on the other hand, with the exception of lions, are by and large solitary creatures that balk at the notion of authority. They are lone hunters. They come together only occasionally with their own kind, almost strictly for the purpose of procreation.

Cats and dogs illustrate what I believe is the biggest problem in society today. Whether it is in the workplace, in schools, in churches or in society in general, leadership today is harder than ever.

Pastors, teachers and other leaders experience burnout and leave their professions today at alarmingly higher rates than in recent history. Why? Today’s leaders are better trained in principles of effective leadership and management than ever before. If they are better equipped, why is their task so hard?

I would suggest it is because it’s difficult to herd cats.

The problem today is not essentially a leadership problem, though leaders will often get blame and credit they don’t deserve. The biggest problem in leadership today is that we lack people willing to be led.

Students scoff a teacher’s instruction because they ignorantly believe their opinions have merit, even if they have no basis in reality. Similarly, many congregants believe their pastors’ biblical teaching to be irrelevant rabble from a bygone era, not meaningful for today.

We are a society of cats. Consequently each person does things his own way, and as a society we keep going in many different equally wrong directions.

We need strong, competent, wise leaders. But we need loyal faithful followers willing to do their part for the good of the pack just as badly. I’m reminded of the biblical account of Jesus calling Levi to follow Him. Jesus said simply “Follow me.” And Levi did. (Mark 2:14)

The trouble today is that everybody thinks he’s somebody. The trouble with that is that when everybody is somebody, nobody is anybody.

Chris Surber is pastor of Cypress Chapel Christian Church in Suffolk. Visit his website at www.chrissurber.com.