Commentary by Dr. Ursula A. Falk

Two Bones

There is an old German Jewish saying: “Einem schlechten Hund soll man zwei Knochen  geben” (A vicious dog should be given two bones).  As Jews we have often taken that adage seriously and have rewarded our enemies by capitulating to them, which has more often than not created anger, hostility, and bloodshed.  We have been apologists, overextended ourselves to our enemies, been apologists and given to anti-Semites in an attempt to have them accept us.  None of that has helped.  On the contrary; it has made us into weaklings who accepted the ill will of our enemies, making them feel strong and authentic, giving them reasons to increase their hatred and mistreatment of us, demanding more and more until we become crawling shadows of who we are.  Where did all this lead as we cowered and stood in line to await the cattle trains that took six million to be thrown into gas ovens?  This was after we acquiesced and gave up our last possessions. 

We have learned a great deal since then.  Our Jewish brethren in Israel changed all that for us.  The world recognizes that the population of that country have stood up for their rights, their lives.  They are fighters, soldiers par excellence.  They will not stand by while the Arabs throw stones, bomb buses, throw missiles and attempt to destroy this new nation.  We are still a peaceful people but not lemmings!

We have seen and learned much over the many years since the holocaust.  Giving two bones is a big mistake.  We see this in children who have been overindulged.  The more these offspring are given and the greater the permissiveness, the more is expected.  They become adults who want everything that is and is not theirs to have or to take.  As a result they are not independently functioning adults.  They do not take responsibility for their own actions, and expect without contributing. Magical hallucinatory omnipotence is a phrase that is here befitting such folks' personalities.  They want control over all of life’s events without having to do anything but inhale oxygen.  Such beliefs and expectations benefit the person who grows up with such convictions.  Infantilizing and overindulging the growing child can produce an infantile adult who demands unearned rewards.  If such a person does not have or receive what he expects,  anger, withdrawal, demanding without giving, character disordered behavior and more can be the result.  Abused, neglected, rejected children can exhibit similar symptoms.  In addition they may be prone to commit some serious crimes.  They are known to steal, taking that which they have not had when they were young and could because of their powerlessness not have their essential needs met.  We find criminals among such humans whose conscience does not exist.

Rewards must be earned.  Reciprocity is important.  We do not value the “takers” who are narcissistic and who are convinced that they are deserving without feelings or actions otherwise.

Justice is not always perceived. The wrongdoer should expect consequences for his sake and for those who come in contact with him.  Rewarding the evildoer enhances his feelings about himself and strengthens his resolve to continue his pursuit.  He is like the dog who bites unless he is given two bones, who, when growling, threatening violence, is rewarded with rewards, two bones in lieu of one.


Dr. Ursula A. Falk is a psychotherapist in private practice and the author of several books and articles.

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