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Learning from Pigeons

"Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account."1

You may have read about an experiment where "pigeons were put in cages with one green and one red button. In one cage, if the birds pecked the green button they got food every time. In the other, the green button yielded food erratically and the pigeons had to persist to get enough food. In both cases, pecking the red button did nothing. Both sets of birds thrived, learning what they had to do to survive and ignoring the red button that yielded no food. But when the birds that were used to getting a reward every time were put in the cage that fed them only occasionally, they failed to adapt; they hit their heads against the cage and pecked wildly at everything in sight."2

Birds and animals can be very smart and quickly learn to pursue activities that produce positive results while avoiding activities that don't. Pity we humans aren't always as smart. Too many of us invest our lives in empty, meaningless or even harmful activities and relationships, and have a way of continually hitting red buttons that always result in getting negative responses.

Others, who, like the pigeons that were used to getting rewarded all the time when put in the cage where they were rewarded only occasionally, couldn't cope, so people who, when growing up, were overprotected, spoiled, or had parents that did far too much for them, have a difficult time adjusting to adult life and accepting personal responsibility. Also as adults, when we, other organizations, and/or the government do for others what they CAN and NEED to do for themselves, we keep them over-dependent and irresponsible.

As adults we need to eliminate (overcome) our own red buttons that trigger our unresolved issues from the past, and not purposely hit others' red buttons that never result in obtaining what we need or want.

Furthermore, we need to learn through experience and hard work to accept personal responsibility for every area of our life. True, we were not responsible for our upbringing and early training, but as adults we are totally responsible for our recovery, our actions, our well-being, for who and what we become, and for every area of our life. To expect otherwise is self-defeating and ultimately self-destructive.

Most important of all is that we need to remind ourselves that we are not only responsible for ourselves and what we do, but we are also responsible before God and one day will be required to give an account of our life to him.

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, thank you for the gift of life and for all the blessings you have given so freely to me. Help me to see issues in my life that I need to resolve and overcome, to avoid unnecessarily hitting others' red buttons, and help me to accept personal responsibility for every area of my life so that when I stand before you, I will hear your welcoming words, 'Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully in Jesus' name. Amen."

1. Hebrews 4:13 (NIV).
2. Michael Josephson in Character Counts.


All articles on this website are written by
Richard (Dick) Innes unless otherwise stated.