To err is human, to forgive, divine

The title of this article is a profound statement made by Alexander Pope. It points out that it is normal to make mistakes, including the type that hurts others. We probably have all made mistakes. And when we did so, we may have dismissed our mistakes with a simple, Whoops, sorry about that, Im only human, you know. Yes, were only human; thats why pencils have erasers. But have you noticed when we are the victim of someones mistake, we may become angry and hold it against them? In other words, if we make a mistake, its because were only human, but if they make a mistake, its because they’re stupid! Not rational, is it?

If we catch ourselves becoming angry by someones carelessness, why not stop and forgive them? Its an opportunity to transcend our humanity and act in a divine way. The purpose of forgiveness is not to absolve others, for who are we to judge them? Rather, the purpose is to free ourselves from the toxicity of resentment, animosity, and bitterness. Those who hold a grudge are held hostage by fear, guilt, and anger (ANGER is one letter short of DANGER). It doesnt make sense to shackle ourselves to negative feelings and limiting beliefs. Isnt it much better to choose forgiveness, or the path of peace, understanding, and acceptance?

Despite the above comments, are you still finding it difficult to forgive someone you know? If so, read the story of Bobby, for it may help you become aware of the butterfly in the caterpillar, the towering pine in the acorn, and the saint in the sinner.

The Story of Bobby

I was in the Humane Society, in the adoption room for cats. As I peered through the bars of the cage in front of me, I saw vacant, yet beautiful, blue eyes. They belonged to a six-year-old stray cat named Bobby. He had reddish-brown and black stripes and his front paws were enormous, reminding me of a tiger. When I spoke to the attendant about him, she warned me that he did not like to be handled and he should not be adopted by anyone looking for an affectionate cat. Good grief, I thought, whos going to adopt an unfriendly six-year old cat? I figured Id better rescue him from an almost certain death, so I adopted him.

His original owner must have loved him because he was declawed. Not that declawing a cat is a sign of love, but paying for the operation is. Bobby probably escaped from the home of his owner and roamed the streets. One day, however, he was brutally attacked. Someone hacked off most of his tail and smashed his pelvis. Because the stub of his tail made him resemble a bobcat, the attendants at the Humane Society called him, Bobby.

His damaged pelvis caused his rear end to come to a point, and instead of walking gracefully, he would hop about. Poor Bobby was traumatized. When he first arrived in his new home, he hid under a bed for a day or so. But hunger pangs finally convinced him to come out from his hiding place. Whenever we picked up the broom to sweep the floor, he fled in terror. It took a long time for him to realize the broom was an instrument to clean the floor, not a weapon to beat him with.

After two years, Bobby was finally secure enough to come of his own accord and jump into my lap. Whenever he would do so, I would gently pet him. However, after a few minutes, he would suddenly bite my arm, drawing blood, and then hop away as quickly as he could. Though the bites were painful and messy, I never did get angry. After all, I understood. Bobby was experiencing a flashback and defending himself the only way a declawed cat could, by biting.

Why am I writing about Bobby? Because many of us, like him, have been injured psychologically to one degree or another. Perceiving an imagined threat, we snap at others. The difference between Bobby and us, however, is that his injuries were clearly visible: a missing tail, pointed rear end, and an inability to walk correctly. Not so with those we meet daily. Their injuries are psychological and hidden from view. As a result, we usually fail to realize their attacks are not due to viciousness, but to pain they have experienced.

So, the next time your boss, spouse, or anyone else unfairly attacks you, don’t get angry. Instead, pause, and imagine it is Bobby biting you. If it were him, you wouldn’t get angry, would you? If we would treat others as well as we would treat Bobby, it would be a much better world. Besides, sometimes WE are Bobby, attacking others for no clear reason. At such a time, lets hope our victims will recognize us as Bobby and forgive us.