Updated: Mar 1
Perhaps the biggest teacher in our family life over the past 6 months has been the addition of our chicken flock.
At present we have 17 hens: seven Rhode Island Reds; four Black Australorps; three Golden Comets; two Turkens; one Barred Rock.
Not only have they provided us with fantastic eggs, but they are also extremely entertaining and ENLIGHTENING to watch.
But...oh can they can be cruel.
To each other.
The whole concept of a "pecking order" is a FACT of life. Among our 17 hens there is a clear dominance hierarchy. An order of power.
As funny as it sounds, hen power rankings from 1 to 17.
And being a higher hen in the pecking order means a couple of things.
First, you are the boss who gets to bully all those lower in the pecking order.
You get to peck anyone inferior on the neck - hence the name "pecking order." You get to chase them away from food and water. You get to crowd them out of the prime spaces in the hen house.
A mentality of "I'm older than you. I'm bigger than you. I'm smarter than you. I'm more attractive than you. I'm a superior egg layer. I'm just BETTER than you.
Therefore...I've EARNED the right to BULLY you."
Second, having GAINED dominance over other hens, you must constantly MAINTAIN this dominance.
Bullying the lower hens is not a one time act. It's literally every waking hour of every day. You've got to perpetually let those other chickens know who's boss.
If you don't, you may lose your place in the pecking order. You've got to be always prepared to bully and battle other hens at a moments notice.
Oh, the daily drama we witness in our small chicken flock.
Isn't it great that humans don't treat each other this way?
All of you children know that it is my deeply rooted conviction that this is the biggest problem on Earth.
That humans still treat each other like animals.
That humans still organize themselves like animals.
By a dominance hierarchy.
By a pecking order.
By human power rankings.
Those humans viewing themselves as BETTER than other humans believe they have EARNED the right to BULLY other human beings.
Just like our hens, the mentality of:
"I'm better looking than you, richer than you, more educated than you, more talented than you, older than you, and more successful than you...
I've EARNED the right to bully you.
You must respect me. I don't have to respect you.
I'm the judge. You're the judged.
I can hurt you. You can't hurt me."
My sons and my daughter, this world will never heal until WE learn to rise above this NATURAL law of a pecking order.
I believe we must learn to be governed by the far superior supranatural law of love.
That is, we live ABOVE and BEYOND the natural law of dominance hierarchies, pecking orders, and human power rankings.
Instead, we choose to live by a superior ethic. One that chooses to love.
One that chooses to give one another the GIFT of unconditional respect.
And now the fourth way we can give this GIFT of respect is to PROTECT other human beings.
Let's face it. The world you were born into is one big, ball of bullying. Bullying is just natural law at work. Most everybody's doing it.
So be different.
Never bully another human being. And beyond that, PROTECT others from being bullied.
We must stand up to bullies both for ourselves, and for those too weak to defend themselves.
I know that most people on Earth have experienced varying degrees of bullying. And these experiences are some of the worst memories in our minds.
I know when you look at me as your 6'3 215 lb. father, it's not easy to envision me having been bullied.
But I have my stories.
For starters, don't forget I also came from a family of five children. For nearly 50 years, I've always been #7 on the family pecking order. And growing up, my siblings did their share of bullying.
And in my K-12 public school experience, I have more than one story of being bullied. I remember them vividly.
But I'll mention just one.
I was bullied in Middle School, in the sixth grade. Middle School consisted of 6th, 7th, and 8th graders, so we were the smallest and youngest kids in the school. The lowest on the human pecking order in that particular building.
I remember distinctly a time when there was an eighth grader named Jimmy who began bullying me on the playground. He called me a nerd. He mocked my hair and its lame comb over. He ridiculed my shoes. He snidely asked, “Your momma buy you those Hush Puppies?”
He was a real sweet guy.
Being the baby of five children, being significantly smaller than Jimmy, and not being trained yet on how to stand up to bullies, I just sat there and took it.
But something cool happened.
In that moment of bullying, my friends PROTECTED me. They stuck up for me. They all started yelling at Jimmy and passionately told him to “Shut up!” They started giving it back to him and began pointing out his imperfections.
Man, that made me feel good.
They gave me more value in the presence of someone trying to devalue me.
Let me borrow the analogy of the price tag from the introduction to this series.
Jimmy was trying to take my "price tag" and mark the price all the way down to almost $0.
But my friends immediately grabbed "the pen" from his hand and said in effect, “We're not going to let you devalue him. In fact, we're going to mark that price right back to where it belongs.”
My friends gave me value. They gave me worth by PROTECTING me, by sticking up for me.
Be that type of person. Stick up for those who are weak. Stand up to bullies.
Have little to no tolerance for bullies who are simply trying to belittle other people on their appearance, their intelligence, their wealth, etc.
Inform the bully that they're the problem in this world, not the ones they're attempting to belittle.
There is little doubt that Joe Jr. - even at just eight years of age - has taken the most ownership over our chicken flock. He truly has become the "Chicken Whisperer." He's pretty amazing at handling them.
And without a doubt, his work with the late "Penguin" (an Americana hen named after her goofy walking style) was legendary.
Penguin was the clear, undisputed bottom of the pecking order in our particular flock. She was bullied by everyone. Which did make her lighting fast.
But it was quite sad that everyone had it out for her. She even spent much of her time during daylight hours alone in the chicken coop to avoid as much bullying as possible.
But Joe Jr. was NOT having it.
First, he would repeatedly catch Penguin and love on her. He knew how to put her at ease.
He put AT EASE the chicken who was constantly ON EDGE. He really calmed this chicken down.
Second, Joe Jr. would bully the bullies. He wasn't about to let the other chickens bully Penguin when he was around. He protected her. He stuck up for her.
Third, near the end of her life (tragically cut short by a chicken hawk), she was beginning to grow in self-respect. She was integrating better with the other chickens. She was even learning how to stick up for herself.
Compliments of Joe Jr.
What Joe Jr. did for a chicken is what we must do for other human beings.
We must become a healing force in this world by giving the unconditional GIFT of respect. And we do this when we PROTECT others from bullying.
R = Receive – love and accept others for who they are.
E = Equalize – stand beside others as equals. Not above them. Not below them.
S = See – Notice others. Don’t treat others like they’re invisible.
P = Protect – Stick up for others. Never bully another human being.
E = Empathize – Listen to the stories of others. Try to feel what they feel.
C = Compliment – People crave affirmation. Compliment them.
T = Thank – People crave appreciation. Thank them.