Free Advice for Snapping Turtles

“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces. Matthew 7:6 NIV

I glanced out the side window of my car and noticed a cute little turtle slowly plodding across the road on the other side. At first I simply sped by but then the guilt of leaving undone the small good deed of helping him get safely home outweighed my brief inconvenience so I turned around and headed back. By the time I spotted him he was well out in the lane of traffic so I gingerly reached to pick up the little guy when it became immediately apparent that A) He didn’t want my help and B) My small friend was a snapping turtle!

Trying to help someone by giving free advice is a bit like trying to help my turtle buddy. Though the turtle needed my help he neither believed or appreciated it. So what can we do when we see danger ahead for a child a parent or a friend? Helping reaches beyond explaining the right or wrong of the situation to the desire of the recipient to listen. Here are a couple of ideas I learned in two minutes with a snapping turtle.

  1. Let go! I figured this out in the split second between his lunging for my finger and my dropping him quicker than a hot potato! Getting close to the situation doesn’t always get results. Sometimes people need to be loved from a distance. Just because we feel better with our version of helping doesn’t mean it will be effective.
  2. Don’t Give Up – Just because I dropped Mr. Turtle didn’t mean I ran away. In the same way getting out of the “Hot Zone” of the emotions of a hurting person puts us in a place just far enough away to help in a better way. For the turtle that meant I could safely nudge him with my foot. to the other side of the road.
  3. Don’t Be Offended – When I finished my Good Samaritan task and glanced back there was the turtle angrily facing me ready to take a bite if I came closer. He wasn’t about to say thank you! In that same way, successful intervention doesn’t guarantee gratitude. I think of when our son and future daughter-in-law were first engaged. They became convinced that they should marry immediately in spite of being in their freshman year of college. They were also both astonished and frustrated that both sets of their parents insisted that they wait at least a year. What seemed obviously for their best to us as parents was not appreciated for a long time. (I think after 23 years they might agree now!)
  4. God Knows – Though my turtle never said thanks another driver passing by noticed and smiled and gave me a thumbs up. Though it would be great getting approval from those we’ve struggled to help; sometimes the only thumbs up we will get is from God. If He says it’s been a job well done that is more enough!

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