Lately in the morning something has been happening as I sit on the sofa and pray or sip a nice cup of hot coffee (made by my husband, who doesn’t even drink coffee — thank you, David). The house is quiet, and that’s when I hear it: a gentle little thump, thump, thump. I look to see the same thing every day: bright red cardinals peeking in my windows. Eventually they start trying to get in.
At first when I saw the cardinals on the sill I thought they were being friendly and curious. How sweet! Birds wanting to be by us! Were they attracted to our peaceful home, our serene surroundings? Were we destined to be like St. Francis of Assisi, attracting animals? Ha! Hardly.
The cardinals soon started flying into the windows, seemingly throwing themselves at them. What’s up? As time went on they persisted, and almost seemed desperate. Tap, tap, tap with their little beaks, then they’d back up, revving up for flight, then thump — into the window, again and again.
At first, I noticed this behavior in our dining room, then the living room. Then one morning my girls called me from the upstairs schoolroom to report the same, just as it was occurring near me in the family room. Finally, when I took out the garbage and I saw another cardinal doing it in the garage window and then later that same day saw a pair of pretty yellow wild canaries begin to do the same thing near the kitchen, I became mildly disturbed. Thump, thump, thump, thump. What was going on? Like any logical person faced with a confusing dilemma, I turned to the obvious — the Internet.
According to various bird watching websites, this flying-into-windows behavior of birds is not uncommon at all. It is, much to my slight disappointment, not due to their attraction to a specific person or environment. The reason certain birds like cardinals fly into windows is really very simple: the birds see their reflections and perceive themselves as their own rivals during the time they are nesting and mating. Silly little bird brains! They compete with themselves!
As I thought about this, I realized we humans (with bigger brains, ability to reason, free wills and immortal souls …) actually do the same sometimes. We may not compete with our own reflection, but we do often compete with the reflection of others around us. Note that I said reflection of others, because sometimes it is not actually others with whom we compete. We often compete with what we perceive others to be, not who they truly are, with flaws and foibles just like ourselves.
We may see others as better or more talented or more holy or more … whatever … than us. We may see rivals who really aren’t rivals at all, on account of our own vivid imaginations. How silly we are!
Tell me, mothers, have you ever compared yourself harshly and unfavorably with another woman whom you think has got her act together better than you do? Have you ever looked at another mother’s children and been jealous of their “perfect” behavior in church or in the mall, not realizing that you simply caught them at a good moment, and forgetting that what you saw was a snapshot in time, not the full picture?
Fathers, have you even compared yourself harshly and unfavorably to another man, thinking that he is a much better provider than you? Have you ever been down on yourself, thinking you are not “good enough” even though you know you’re trying your best?
We can avoid being bird-brained (that is, tricked by a reflection) in several ways:
• We must remember that appearances do not always reflect reality. We must pray for the wisdom to see things as they are, not as we imagine them to be.
• We must recognize and appreciate the blessings in our own backyards. We must not let ourselves constantly look towards others to compare.
• We must protect our territories (family, homes), yes, but we must also temper our natural tendencies of competition with reason and control. We must accept the gifts and talents that God gave us, and work to overcome our own unique weaknesses and faults. And we must persist in joy and confidence.
Those silly birds throwing themselves against my window are wasting a lot of time competing with imaginary rivals. Sometimes we humans can do the same. Today I pray for the wisdom to see things as they are, and for strength and courage to accept reality, try hard, be positive and move forward in faith. My cute feathered friends might get distracted, but I’m not going to. I won’t inadvertently be bird-brained. Why? Because when you’re running into windows, you can’t fly. Think about it.
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