Confession: I Am a Porcupine

love the unlovable

I’m not sure exactly when the moment occurred, but I’ve discovered that I’m exactly like an animal—a porcupine, to be more precise. Let me explain. For many years, I’ve spoken at events around the country. One of the topics I speak on is how to love your family well. I share how it’s easy to love people who are sweet, kind, and lovable. But how do you love the prickly porcupines in your life who hiss at you, irritate you, wound you, or cause you pain? In other words, how do you love the unlovable? I then go on to share the nature of the porcupine.

Its most recognizable feature is its quills, and it can have as many as 30,000 of them. Quills are hairs with barbed tips. The porcupine has quills on all parts of its body, with the exception of its stomach. The longest quills are on its rear end. When irritated or threatened, the porcupine stamps its feet, growls, hisses, places its snout between its forelegs and spins around, presenting its rear to the other animal. If the porcupine hits the animal with its quills, the quills become embedded and can cause enormous pain. I can cause a lot of pain, too. Can you?

The Porcupine Me

For some years now, my wife, Susan, has joked about my sometimes “porcupine-ish” tendencies. I’d even laugh about it with her every once in a while. But I didn’t think too much about it until once, years ago, when our team gathered to brainstorm new topics for my blog. As we gathered around the table, I held up a picture of a porcupine and said, “What’s the first thing you think about when you see this?” One of our team members blurted out, “You!”

Everyone chuckled. I even got a kick out of it too. Then I fired him (just kidding). Our team knows I always want them to be honest with me. His comment made me realize I’m not talking about something I don’t know anything about. I can speak from personal experience as a porcupine and also as a person who has dealt with many porcupines.

Born or Bred a Porcupine?

So was I born a porcupine or did I become a porcupine? Is it a genetic predisposition or external factors that have influenced me? Is it nature or nurture that makes us prone to prickly moods? I believe the answer is “yes.” It’s both. I was born a selfish creature who wants what he wants when he wants it. I was also raised in a world that has influenced me as well.

You Might Be a Porcupine If…

You’ve probably seen comedian Jeff Foxworthy’s well-known “you might be a redneck” bit. Well, check out these porcupine characteristics and evaluate whether you think you have any porcupine-ish tendencies:

Porcupines have sharp quills on their backs, sides, and tails, but their bellies are tender and vulnerable. So, if you are often prickly, even though you have a lovable, tender side, you might be a porcupine.

Porcupines are very vocal animals, with a variety of calls including moans, grunts, coughs, wails, whines, shrieks, and tooth clicking. If you do a lot of unnecessary grunting or a lot of whining or complaining, you might be a porcupine.

Porcupines are often solitary animals. If you find yourself wanting to be alone a lot, and being with other people too much makes you grumpy, you might be a porcupine.

When irritated or threatened, a porcupine will turn its back, raise its quills and lash out at a predator with its rump. If you get easily defensive, show your backside, and angrily lash out at others, you might be a porcupine.

A porcupine’s quills have sharp tips and barbs that cause serious pain and make them difficult to remove. If you say or do things to others that deeply wound them and cause long-term pain, you might be a porcupine.

Porcupines mate in late summer and early fall. Uh, well this one doesn’t exactly fit…

The First Step to Recovery

So, how did you do? Are you, or is someone you love, a porcupine like me sometimes? They say the first step to correcting a problem is admitting you have one, so join me now in saying:

“My name is ________ and I’m a porcupine.”

Feel better? Me too!

Now that I’ve admitted to being a porcupine, I need to share with you that sometimes, especially in my younger years, I have gotten irritated or lashed out when things haven’t gone my way, when my expectations have not been met, when I’ve felt disrespected, or when I’ve been lied to. These are my trigger points. A trigger point is whatever makes our quills stand on end and evokes our “fight or flight” response. And I address trigger points here.

Are you sometimes a porcupine? If so, what porcupine traits have you exhibited? Please share with me.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.