I know someone who’s afraid of chickens. I guess you could say she’s chickenphobic. Actually, the proper word for this phobia is alektorophobia, but I’m never going to be able to remember this. The fear of birds in general is ornithophobia, which also isn’t easy to remember. I’ll stick with chickenphobia. I find chickenphobia difficult to understand. I’ve raised chickens as a hobby for over 40 years, even hatching them in an incubator. I don’t find chickens very intimidating, except maybe for a few roosters I’ve had over the years. Generally chickens are, well, chicken!
In talking with this friend who’s fearful of fowl I found out that when she was a little girl her brothers would terrorize her by catching chickens and throwing them at her. These feathered, flapping, brother-tossed ballistic missiles gave her a life-long fear of anything feathered.
Knowing of her childhood trauma keeps me from poking fun at her phobia or judging her for having what strikes me as an irrational fear, which is, as it turns out, very rational! In fact, she’s a very smart person, is an RN, and can handle bloody situations that would make me turn green and faint. So, I’ll be a gentleman (unlike her brothers), and not toss one of my pet chickens into her lap for her to pet if she comes to visit us.
My friend’s understandable chickenphobia is a reminder that the less we know about a person the easier it is to be condescending, judging, or to give unsolicited advice. Most of us have trouble figuring ourselves out, so why do we think we can easily and accurately judge someone else?
Even if the other person’s situation seems similar to ours, it’s not; there are all kinds of factors that are different. For us to say, “I know how you feel,” or “Been there, done that,” is insensitive, ignoring the fact that every person is different. We all have a different past and we have different personalities. Two people’s experiences may be similar, but they’re not the same!
People need less judgment and advice from us and more of a listening ear and a compassionate heart. I was reminded of this when my chickenphobic friend shared her fowl past.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Colossians 3:12