Does Shunning Work?

by Sandy Kirby Quandt

Baxter attended only one puppy obedience class before the canine influenza hit our area, eliminating all gatherings of dogs from his schedule for four weeks until his body builds up immunity from his flu shots.

At the one class he did attend, Pilot and I were taught to handle Baxter’s jumping on us by crossing our arms and turning from him. Pie calls it Amish Shunning, which is a pretty good description of the position. The puppy trainer said Baxter would automatically know not to jump up, and would sit when we turned.

Yeah. Well. I have scratches and bruises on the back of my legs to prove shunning doesn’t work.

Instead of jumping on the front of me, the turn and shun move lets Baby B jump on the back of me.

Obviously, there is a disconnect somewhere. And I think I might know part of the problem.

In Amish Shunning, we turn from Baxter and refuse to give him attention, but in the process, we expect him to figure out what his correct behavior should be without actually showing him what it should be.

He’s a puppy for goodness sake. How’s he supposed to know what humans expect from him unless that proper behavior is demonstrated?

All this shunning led me to think about how new Believers are sometimes treated by long-time Christians. Often, long-timers expect new Christians – puppies – to know what the proper way to behave is, and we do the Amish Shunning-thing by crossing our arms over our chest, and turning away from them when they don’t behave as we expect.

In the process we leave it up to them to figure out how they should live.

Jesus didn’t do that. He stepped right into a person’s messiness, loved them, and lovingly explained how they should live.

He didn’t shun the woman at the well. He purposefully met her where she was and had a two-way conversation that showed her a better way to live.

Jesus did not condemn the woman the Pharisees brought before him to be stoned. He showed compassion, mercy, and grace – ah, yes, grace. Then he told the woman to go and sin no more.

When Simon huffed about a certain woman anointing Jesus’ feet with oil, Jesus told a story to illustrate which of the two did what pleased God.

Pilot and I continue working with Baxter to help him learn what is acceptable behavior in the Quandt household, and what is frowned upon. He’s a smart puppy. He’ll figure it out, but we don’t believe shunning will be the most productive way to reach that goal.

Just as Baby B needs to be shown what is acceptable in a loving way, so do those of us who strive to follow Jesus.

It’s a life-long process, so how about we all agree … no Amish Shunning?

Leave a comment below to share your thoughts on the subject. If you think others would appreciate reading this, please share it through the social media buttons.
 You will say, “How I hated discipline! If only I had not ignored all the warnings! Oh, why didn’t I listen to my teachers? Why didn’t I pay attention to my instructors? Proverbs 5:12-13 (NLT)
 I wish you well.


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