Hanukkah and the Tin Dog

My beautiful snow-covered world
My beautiful snow-covered world

This morning dawned in quiet, snow-covered beauty. I’m still getting used to the challenges of harsher winters, but I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. It is so beautiful.

Danny wanted outside as EJ was leaving for work. I went out with him and refilled the bird feeders for any birds, squirrels, turkeys, or deer who decide to visit. I know many people try to keep the squirrels from their feeders, but I honestly enjoy every critter who shows up. They are all fun to watch.

Hanukkah ended last weekend, but I have been pondering some thoughts I thought during Hanukkah but was too busy to write about. For those who are unfamiliar with it, Hanukkah is a holiday based on the story and tradition of the Jewish people’s defeat of the Seleucid Empire (Syrian-Greeks) in the Holy Land. In the 2nd century BC a small army of Jews called the “Maccabees” staged a rebellion against the Seleucids during their attempts to Hellenize the Jewish people and Land of Israel. You can read more about it here: Hanukkah. The message of Hanukkah is, basically, about not letting the darkness of the world overcome our light. Yeshua (Jesus) celebrated it (John 10:22) and it’s something that, as a believer, I can celebrate as well.

During Hanukkah, my thoughts dwell on not letting our lights be overcome by darkness and not being conformed to this world.

Many people loudly declare that they are standing against wrong when in reality they are succumbing to it–they are part of the darkness, not the light. Trying to silence those who have a different opinion, beating up people for voting differently, ambushing and murdering police, hating someone because of their color (whether black or white), rape, abuse…these are evil actions no matter who does them. It’s not wrong if one group does it and ok if another does it.

I don’t believe that we can heroically and courageously stand against major evils in our world unless we are making small everyday choices to stand firm.

I really enjoy the Doctor Who series. When my work is done and I want to relax, I watch Doctor Who. I was re-watching the series during Hanukkah and the combination has resulted in an interesting line of thought.

For those who are unfamiliar with Doctor Who (Gasp), the Doctor is a time-traveling Time Lord who take a variety of companions with him to share in his adventures. Every now and then he “regenerates”–he’s the same doctor, the same character, but he’s played by a different actor. The series originally ran from 1963 to 1989. There was an unsuccessful attempt to revive regular production in 1996, and then it was relaunched in 2005 with the ninth regeneration of the Doctor. I began watching the series with the most modern episodes.

Ninth Doctor and Rose Tyler. Photo from Doctor Who TV.
Ninth Doctor and Rose Tyler. Photo from Doctor Who TV.

The modern series began in 2005 with the ninth Doctor who had a companion named Rose Tyler. When she ran off with the Doctor she left behind her boyfriend, Mickey Smith. The Doctor didn’t respect Mickey much, often deliberately mispronouncing his name, calling him “Mickey the Idiot,” and valuing him only when he was useful to them. Rose didn’t seem to give much thought to Mickey except on her occasional visits home. Mickey, meanwhile, wasn’t much for adventure–which is fine, not everyone is an adrenaline junkie–but he never moved on with his life. His life was on hold while he kept waiting for Rose to return….until one day he had a pivotal moment that changed everything.

Picture from Pinterest: ELISABETH SLADEN as Sarah Jane Smith, DAVID TENNANT as The Doctor.
Sarah Jane Smith, the Tenth Doctor, and K-9 the “tin dog.” Photo from Pinterest.

It occurred in an episode called “School Reunion,” in which the tenth Doctor reconnected with a previous companion, Sarah Jane Smith, who first appeared in the series in 1973. With her was K-9, the Doctor’s robot dog who he had left with her when she ceased traveling with him. Sarah Jane met the Doctor’s new companions and in a conversation with Mickey, she said, “The Doctor likes traveling with an entourage. Sometimes they’re human, sometimes they’re aliens and sometimes they’re tin dogs. What about you? Where do you fit in the picture?” Mickey Smith replied, “Me? I’m their man in Havana. I’m their technical support. I’m…Oh my god. I’m the tin dog!”

doctor-who-mickeyThis realization that he was merely the “tin dog,” set aside until needed, was the pivotal moment that changed his life. At that point, he decided that he would no longer be the tin dog. He began traveling with the Doctor, he became active rather than passive in his life, and he began to transform into a warrior who courageously fought against evil.

Photo from Pinterest
Photo from Pinterest

I do not blame victims for abuse. The blame belongs to the abusers who are extremely skilled at confusing their victims, at gaslighting their victims so that they second-guess and blame themselves, at exploiting their victims’ compassion, while they destroy their victims’ boundaries, self-confidence, and identity. However, one day a victim wakes up, begins to understand what has been happening, and at that pivotal point he (or she) decides that he has had enough and will tolerate no more. It begins with a realization, a shift in thinking, a decision, and a step as the victim begins to say, “ENOUGH; NO MORE.” He begins transformation from a confused victim to a survivor who encourages and helps other victims, from a tin dog into a warrior–becoming a Maccabee who courageously stands against evil.

I’ve shared portions of my story before. I was raised–both in the family and in the church–without a real understanding of boundaries. I was taught to be loyal to family/church, to be respectful of others, to be unconditionally loving and forgiving no matter what a person did, to not confront. When I KNEW that an action was right or wrong, I could/would stand firm, but I could be manipulated if I was unsure. Most of these characteristics aren’t bad…so what’s wrong with them? Just as fire can be used for good purposes or bad–to warm a person and cook a meal or to destroy homes–abusive people twist these things to gain control. So “loyalty to family” can be twisted into a group pressure to conform to the demands of the group and into a dysfunctional “code of silence” that hides and defends abuse. “Unconditional love and forgiveness” without requiring a change of behavior can be twisted into a refusal to confront evil, which empowers the unrepentant abuser. And so on.

My eyes began to be opened when I resisted my Mom’s attempt to seize control of my marriage, which I felt was wrong. Still, for most of our marriage, EJ and I tried to reconcile with my family–until it finally became clear to us that my family wasn’t interested in reconciliation. They wanted abusive power and control. At that point, we chose to stop being the tin dog and we began to resist evil, which abusers often disguise as love. We chose to have No Contact with my family.

Slightly off topic, but still relating to it: Just today I ran across an article at Facebook about a woman who forgave the drunk driver who almost killed her. I didn’t read the article because I’ve read many such articles in the past and usually know how they continue. This article could be different, but I doubted it. “Forgiveness” in such stories usually means that there is no attempt to confront an offender, to hold him accountable, or to bring him to justice. If the drunk driver is “forgiven” without any consequences for his actions he is free to continue driving while drunk and somewhere, sometime, he will likely not merely “almost kill” another person. So how is it loving to “forgive” a drunk driver for almost killing you and thereby setting him free to perhaps kill someone else? EJ told me he had once worked with a guy who stated that he was heading into 90 days in jail for drunk driving. This was his TWELVETH arrest. Drunk drivers, like many others with addictions, tend to not just stop. Likewise, “Unconditionally forgiving” a molester might sound loving but it allows the molester the freedom to go on to harm others, and provides no justice for the victims whose lives are forever affected by his actions. These days people seem to view repentance and justice as negative, hateful, revengeful–and it can be twisted to be so–but they actually protect the innocent by preventing evil from continuing to do harm. It’s part of “resisting evil.”

Anyway….EJ and I have always deeply respected the rights and boundaries of others, but we have not understood that we also have the right to have our rights and boundaries respected. Setting healthy boundaries is one way that we can oppose evil. When we oppose evil in small ways–by saying “no”–we strengthen ourselves to oppose evil in “bigger” ways. We move from being tin dogs to being warriors and in doing so, we become the defenders and protectors of others. If we let evil in, the innocent, our loved ones, can be hurt.

Some of the abuse sites recommend writing a personal list of “rights” or boundaries. I thought I’d write a list of the boundaries we have set in place for ourselves. These are healthy boundaries based on mutual respect that allow relationships to thrive. A boundary is not a punishment but it defines where “you” end and “I” begin and enables people to live together in peace. A counselor once told us that a healthy person is willing to accept and respect others’ boundaries while a toxic person will become angered by them.

When we moved north, we decided that we would no longer be tin dogs who tolerate abusive behavior. Here are the boundaries we are setting in place:

  1. We respect the freedom, right, and authority, of people to make decisions for themselves and their own families whether or not we agree with them. We expect the same. We do NOT give anyone the freedom, right, or authority to make decisions for OUR family. We do not operate our family by committee. Our decisions for our family aren’t open to debate and second-guessing. Others are not part of our decision-making process and do not have veto power. They are responsible for THEIR own families, not for ours.
  2. We might sometimes explain our reasons for decisions we make, but we are not obligated to do so. We don’t have to explain, justify, or defend our choices and decisions to anyone. Neither do we need approval or permission from others.
  3. We have a right to our own beliefs, opinions, preferences, traditions, choices, and decisions. We do not expect everyone to agree with them but we do insist on our right to have/do them.
  4. We will NEVER submit to any pressure that violates our beliefs, principles, values, or decisions. We will not submit to a “group-think” or “mob” mentality that “punishes” us for not obeying the group.
  5. We will never tolerate any abuse of any kind, including insults, belittling, and so on.
  6. Although we have deep love and commitment to people we care about, we refuse to engage in “blind loyalty.” Our loyalty is to God and we pursue His ways. He and His ways will always supersede all other loyalties, including family.
  7. Unacceptable behavior is unacceptable whether done by a stranger, friend, or relative. We will never stand with anyone, no matter who it is, who engages in evil, abusive, and/or predatory behavior.
  8. We have the right to choose who we will allow into our lives. In particular, no toxic, unsafe, or abusive person will remain in our lives. Period.
  9. We have the right to keep our family safe from anyone that we considered to be unsafe, toxic, abusive.
  10. We consider those who choose to support, defend, justify, or excuse an abusive person to be an ally of the abuser and to share in his guilt.


2 Comments on “Hanukkah and the Tin Dog

  1. And that is why we love you guys, you are the best this world has to offer and we are grateful to have you in our lives. May 2017 a blessed year for all of you.


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