The Truths in Triggers

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – John 8:32 (NIV)

When my partner and I first brought our dog home from the county animal shelter, our dog had a difficult time adjusting. She constantly ran away from us every chance she got. She was very anxious when we tried to get too close to her, especially when we tried to pet her lower back. If anyone got too close to her back, she’d try to nip at them.

The first time she let me pet her lower back, I felt a strange indentation. Her wide eyes stared at me as I touched what was likely a sign of abuse by a previous owner, and suddenly she and I understood each other.

There are truths in the triggers. When someone hurts you and leaves damage, it’s difficult to trust people who may say or do something that reminds you of your past hurts. Even though I wasn’t going to hurt my dog, she didn’t know that. She was just getting to know me, and she needed time to make sure me reaching for her back was a sign of love and not abuse.

I still watch my dog get a little jumpy when strangers reach for her back, and I also watch her sprawl out on my bed when she’s ready for a rub, lower back and all.

The good news is that restorative relationships can heal emotional and spiritual trauma. As we find clarity through restoration, it is easier to distinguish sources of present danger from the residue of past pains.

Help me to find the truth in my triggers so that I may keep tending my pain in the path to liberation. Amen.

About the Author
Marchaé Grair is a spiritual director, facilitator, and the Director of Public Relations and Outreach at the Unitarian Universalist Association. Follow her work at