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They look so innocent and peaceful, munching away on hay or on the grass in the fields. Don’t let them fool you, though. Cows are mean. Some people will excuse them and say they are just animals. True, animals aren’t humans, but the way they treat each other has given new meaning to the insult, “You old cow.” At least it has for me.

Last week we bought a small herd from a farmer who was changing business strategies. These were some of the friendliest cows I’d ever met. He would holler out to the pasture, “Come here girls, come on!” and they would meander up to the fence to see what he wanted. Of course, they were hopeful for treats. The day we saw them for the first time, all they got were head scratches. But they let us pet them and were curious to meet us.

Now let’s move ahead one week and check in on these same ladies. Yikes! Trying to load them into the trailer to take them to their new home was a fiasco. First, one jumped on top of the corral fence, then over the top of it to get out of the small pen. She is well over 1,500 pounds, so that corral section was toast, and we had to replace it. Fortunately, the person standing between her and the fence was fleet of foot. He dodged out of the way just in time to avoid being trampled.

Another beauty decided she wasn’t getting on the trailer either, and she put her head down and headed right for my husband. Thankfully, she thought better of it at the last second. Otherwise, he’d have been a goner.

Then, after we’d finally gotten everyone transported to their new home, we let them calm down and settle in. Then, it was time for them to get their vaccines to protect the herd from diseases and parasites. You would have thought the end of the world had come. They did not want to go down the chute. One large cow climbed on two small heifers in front of her in line. The poor little girls underneath her were groaning and whining under the enormous animal’s weight, and it was all I could do to get her off them. Jeepers!

Once again, my animals revealed something we humans have brought from the animal world into our own. We can look all peaceful and pretty outside when it is a lovely sunny day, and nothing is worrying us. But turn up the heat and put us in a position where we’re afraid—and we can get ugly. Sometimes we trample people around us or figuratively climb over them, oblivious to the harm we cause others.

We don’t necessarily intend to be mean, but we lose control. Others get hurt. Sometimes badly.

Thankfully, though, we aren’t cattle. And we can work at fixing the harm we unintentionally cause. That’s the beautiful part about being human. We have unique tools. Language gives us a way to mend relationships by saying simple things such as, “I’m sorry.” Two paltry words can fix many of the “mean cow” things we do to each other. How simple, and yet sometimes so hard. You can do it, though. It will make the world a little less cruel and more pleasant for everyone.

Have something to add to this? I’d love to hear from you.