Ophidiaphobia, the fear of snakes, is one of the more common fears in our society. I’m not really afraid of snakes when I see them, but I hate for them to sneak up on me. One day I was at home in the parsonage of a church in South Georgia, sitting on the sofa reading. I had my shoes off when I suddenly felt something crawl over my foot. Looking down, I saw a snake just as it went under the sofa. The next thing I knew I was standing on the sofa. I never saw another snake inside, but, after that day, I almost always kept my shoes on in the house.
Several years ago, we had a blessing of animals in a public park. Someone brought their pet snake to be blessed, and I had a great time walking around with it and testing just how butch some people really are. Actually, the snake wasn’t a problem, but there was a Pekingese that bit my thumb. I never did like those little bug-eyed dogs …
Now, the truth of the matter is that about as many people die each year from Pekingese bites as from snake bites. I read in a recent article that, in the United States, an average of one person a year dies of a snakebite. Of course, the article didn’t say how many people die of heart attacks due to their fear of snakes.
Any of our fears can make us behave in silly and unreasonable ways. Fear can keep us standing on sofas and avoiding Pekingese dogs. Often, even our common fears, like snakes, are really unreasonable and unfounded. Most of the things we worry about never happen, and most of the things we fear never hurt us. Still, they can have a profound impact. In fact, the worry usually has a worse effect on us than that which we worry about ever could. Our fear can limit us much more than the thing of which we are afraid.
Snakes are an important part of the ecological balance. Destroy them and soon the rodent population begins to take over, bringing filth and disease into our lives. Snakes are often colorful, beautiful, graceful, and, for the most part, harmless creatures.
Most of us know that; at least, we’ve read it somewhere. The problem is it doesn’t change how we feel about snakes. As with most of our prejudices, there is one part of our mind that acknowledges that our feelings are unreasonable, but another part of us clings to those feelings with renewed tenacity.
So, what is the snake in your garden right now … or perhaps the Pekingese?
by Michael Piazza
Center for Progressive Renewal