I once knew a geologist who told me that he was sitting on a rock one day out in the desert, drawing a map. As he worked, he happened to glance down and noticed a rattlesnake coiled under the edge of the rock on which he was sitting. I asked him what he did when he saw the rattlesnake and was he afraid of it. He said, “Not at all. I had no desire to hurt the snake and he had no desire to harm me.” So he sat there and leisurely completed his plans and then went about his business with no thought of fear.
This reminded me of a passage in the Bible in which it says: “Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall by any means hurt you.” And in another place: “They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”
I’m not sure that I would be willing to pick up a rattlesnake, but I do know this: I love dogs, and I have never had a dog so much as snap at me. They certainly do feel your personal atmosphere, and if it is one of trust and confidence, if it is one of understanding and love, they will respond to it.
Well, we are not dogs and we are not rattlesnakes, but I really wonder if it is true – and I feel certain that it is – that when we have an atmosphere of antagonism toward others, they inwardly feel it and their response to us will be antagonistic. Perhaps this is why the Bible says that a soft answer turneth away wrath.
We are all human beings trying to get along with each other, trying to find out how to live happily together, trying to cooperate in the great game of life, and we don’t always succeed as well as we would like to. I have no doubt that there is a subtle atmosphere around each one of us, which without our knowing it, is silently attracting people to us or repelling them from us. And I have no doubt that some form of fear is the cause of most of our troubles. What the animal smells, because of its acute instinct, we humans feel inwardly when we contact each other.