I was a 17-year-old passionate about service dogs. More than anything, I wanted to be an assistance dog trainer. People like Bonnie Bergen were my heroes. I planned to attend the certificate program at Bergen University.
So what happened?
I witnessed a conflict between a service dog handler and a store manager in which the manager was unaware of service dog laws and confronted the handler with questions she was not legally allowed to ask. Very politely, I tried to explain this to the manager, and was promptly shut down.
Such an experience, humiliating though it was, should not have taken such a toll on me. But I allowed it to fester because it was easier than dealing with it – easier than accepting that such incidents happen but life must go on.
How do you regain confidence when something shakes you to the core? How does a slightly shy introvert ever stand up for herself or anyone else again?
Very slowly, I let go of my dream to train service dogs – let other interests take a front row seat. I could say that those interests are what changed my mind, but I don’t believe it’s true. I allowed the dream to die the day I tried to stand up for that woman’s right to bring her service dog into the store.
It was two years later, when God brought that incident back around, before I could deal with it, let it go.
(Yes, I’m a peace-keeper-wants-everyone-happy-and-content kind of person. Sue me.) But even after I began to deal with it, reevaluate my knee-jerk reaction to the experience, I realized how little confidence I actually possess in myself. If not for having to explain my food allergies so frequently, I probably would never stand up for myself in everyday situations.
Which begs the question . . .
How do you rebuild confidence when there is so little of it to work with?
As I asked this question, I was reminded of a time when God showed me the parallels between dog training . . . and faith.
As I wrote on my blog A Need to Breathe:
If you tried to teach a puppy a complex behavior in a high-distraction environment, you would surely overwhelm the poor creature. So you start slowly, in a familiar, safe place. This is a concept crucial to creating a confident dog that is able to later work in a high-stress environment.
When I train a puppy, I want that puppy to trust me. No matter what comes. No matter how scary something may seem to him. That is one reason we teach “watch me”; this simple command instructs the dog to turn his attention fully upon us. Using this, we can then navigate a distracting situation with confidence.
And, in conclusion:
When we turn our eyes to Christ, that roadblock in our path, that scary situation in our life, will not have the final word. God holds our hand and guides us through. Because He loves us, and desires our trust. A speaker at our church recently put it this way, very simply, poignantly: “Do you trust God or not?” Just as a trainer makes a profound request on behalf of the dog, Jesus makes a profound request on our behalf – “Trust ME.”
I recommend you read the full post here, as it expounds on these points.
I wrote that post well over a year ago. And yet, here I am again. Wrestling with low confidence, moving on from a painful experience. It is OKAY to struggle with these things. It is OKAY to ask God “why”. He is not intimidated by your doubts – He is not caught off guard by your struggles.
But He is ready to help you through them.