It’s been used as a joke, but there are some very funny images to support it as a reality. Do humans often resemble their pets? In attitude and temperament? Even in their looks? It appears that the answer is a strong YES! This phenomenon, particularly with dogs, has actually been studied and photographed multiple times*. The theories vary as to why this seems to be more than a coincidence. But for me, it is obvious. For one, we are attracted to things (and people) who are like us in some way. And for two, we tend to take on the characteristics of those we hang out with most often.
This idea can be seen in couples who have been married for many years. Friends who are constantly together also can begin to take on similarities that they don’t even recognize but are obvious to the outside observer. While my wife and I will be the first to point out all the ways the two of us are different, others see our similarities: our values, our lifestyles, our faith, and even some of our habits and mannerisms. It wasn’t always that way. But having been married for more than 40 years now, it’s fair to say we’ve rubbed off onto each other a bit. And, as for the non-couples out there, just look at social groups from teens on up in age. From hairstyles to clothing choices, to the use of piercings and tattoos, not to mention language and all the other cultural traits. We become more and more like those we open our lives up to.
It’s more than a physical thing
But I can see a spiritual side to this as well. I heard it said many years ago, “You become like whatever you worship.” If that is true, why would it be so?
First of all, we have to consider what it means to worship. This is not a reference to music or singing. It has to do with what we adore and love. I remember one of the thoughts I gleaned from reading some of Saint Augustine’s teachings: we are not ruled by what we know (that is, our intellect), but we are ruled by what we love (that is, those things we choose to give ourselves to).
The people, the attitudes, or the ideas we choose to embrace in love will be the most powerful direction-givers in our lives. Over time, we become more and more like that which we think about, that which we meditate on, that which we obey, that which we adore. Worship is obedience and submission. And it can be applied to anything and anyone. And it will always produce some kind of fruit in our lives.
The anonymous poet who penned Psalm 115 gives us some thoughtful insight. Idols and those who make them are described. They are crafted by humans and always reflect what humans value. But they also reflect all that makes up human foibles and flaws:
“Their idols are silver and gold,
the work of human hands.
They have mouths, but do not speak;
eyes, but do not see.
They have ears, but do not hear;
noses, but do not smell.
They have hands, but do not feel;
feet, but do not walk;
and they do not make a sound in their throat.
Those who make them become like them;
so do all who trust in them” Psalm 115:4-8 ESV.
You are what you worship
True worship always calls us to a state of reliance on something. It can be money, public opinion, education, or our own reasoning abilities. The Psalmist effectively says that what we worship and trust in pretty much determine what we think about, what we adore, what we do, and ultimately what we look like and become.
But of course, there is another aspect to all this. What might we look like or become if we give ourselves over to be true worshipers of God? How does consistently loving God shape us from the inside out? If one is truly worshiping the One who defines truth, beauty, and love, then a person’s character will reflect Him: patient, forgiving, loving, committed to truth and righteousness, to mention a few qualities.
By implication, the writer of Psalm 115 is telling us how worshipers of human-made gods are limiting what they ultimately will be able to do with what they have:
They will have physical mouths,
but what they say will ultimately be meaningless as if nothing is being communicated.
They will have physical eyes
But they will be blind to what is truly valuable and long-lasting.
They will have physical ears,
but what they hear will not be a voice communicating truth nor one guiding them into eternal wealth.
They will have physical noses,
but their spiritual sense of discernment will be unable to distinguish between what is truly good and that which brings only short-term gain.
They will have physical hands and feet.
But what they feel with all their senses will not be reliable, and neither will their feet take them to places that are life-giving.
To look like our Father
Ultimately, our lives are going to be modelled after someone or something. It’s inevitable. And we can determine now what those features are going to resemble. The Bible is clear. Jesus came to make us children of God (John 1:12). We are called to be like our Heavenly Father, to take on His characteristics.
Choose this day what you are going to look like. We all are in the process of forming our eternal identities. It has everything to do with what we are bowing down to now.
We may take on similarities with our pets, spouses, and good friends. But the shape of our character, ultimate beauty and worth have much more to do with what and WHO we love and worship!
Choose well! Your spiritual complexion depends on it!
*Google “humans resembling their pets” and see what comes up.