My neighbor came out as I was cleaning the mess of the spilled planter and I said, nicely, his cat had killed one of my birds (note: these are not mine; they are wild.) He laughed and shrugged and said he wished his cat would kill the pigeons in his back yard. He appeared completely uncaring about his cat coming on my porch and killing one of the few things that had brought me joy in quite a while.
My first reaction? I wanted to bop him on the head. No, I'm not exaggerating. Of course, one, I couldn't. Two, I really didn't want that. What I wanted was for him to care that something that belonged to him hurt something I cared about. Simple fact: he didn't. And wouldn't. He wasn't focused that way. Fortunately I have spent a good deal of time speaking with this neighbor and like him. He takes good care of his yard (which faces my large windows.) He appears to be a caring and attentive father to his young daughter. He works in a profession where he takes care of others. He does not value birds the way I do.
My next reaction was to feel an overwhelming sense of sorrow. The thing that was bringing me joy was killed. It wasn't enough that I was struggling for a week to just function, now as I started to feel a little better, I was watching what I loved be killed in front of me. One thing that helped at that moment was to realize the bird no longer felt anything of this world. It wasn't feeling sorrow, I was pretty sure. My sorrow then was for me.
So what is next? Did I need to forgive the cat? Yes. I love cats and this one in particular is adorable- round gold eyes in a marmalade body. I've known him from kittenhood, and as I can't have cats in my present home, I loved his visits. Sadly, since he has grown he had destroyed at least two nests and the babies in them, plus the finch. Is it really his fault? No, if he knew better, he'd do better. He's acting out of instinct. (I would aver that there are many people who do the same.) I wish it were otherwise, but there it is. So should I hate the cat? Hold the killing of the bird against him? No. He is actually easy to forgive. I don't think he knew what he was doing. I am certain it wasn't personal to me or that bird. (If it had been personal, and I've had some pretty tough stuff that appeared to be very personal that I have forgiven, the process here is to let go of the sense that someone else has control over you. That moment has passed. The effects may remain, but they tend to lessen as we let go of the experience.)
My neighbor? I don't think he really was uncaring. I think he honestly had no sense of the meaning the bird held in my day. He doesn't keep his cat indoors, I think, because the cat wants to be outside. I have had cats like that and they are darn near impossible to keep in the house. My neighbor is a nice guy who does not appear to do a great deal of thinking (I could be wrong.) Is he a bit self-centered- probably. Very little empathy? Certainly in some cases. But I've been there, too, about certain things at certain times.
So why was I still upset? Because of the bigger picture. It FELT personal at that moment. It felt as if a higher power was pushing me under each time I tried to get to the surface. Do I really believe that a higher power would do that? No. Then the next challenge is to find a way around the idea that if it is a "higher power" what kind of idiotic game is it playing? I have my own way around this, but at the crux of my challenge was this fundamental feeling.
Forgiveness often is not really about the person or thing that happens. Every time we see some cruel action on the part of someone, if we could see a movie of their life up to that point, it is likely that we would have compassion for why they did what they did. Whether it is a part of a life that has been cruel to them or a defect of chemistry, there is something that is happening beyond what we see. It does NOT make what they did okay. It merely helps us put it in context and helps us forgive and let go. To not let their life path change our life path in a negative manner.
In one very tough instance in my life where I wanted to forgive someone who had inflicted what felt like unforgivable harm on my family, what helped tremendously was a photo of this person as a toddler. He looked so hopeful, so innocent, so vulnerable. What had happened between that picture in time and the ones in later years that had brought such horror to my family? I don't know. I do know that seeing him that way opened my thought to forgiveness. That child was still in there, struggling with all that had been foisted upon him, struggling with all the choices he had made. Even if he did not see it, I did, And I am certain, although this person has passed on, at some point he did. And the toughest act of forgiveness was assuredly his- to forgive himself.
Our paths may all be different in coming to forgiveness. But the result is peace. It may seem easier and safer to hold onto anger and hatred, but that does nothing whatsoever to the other person-- it only hurts us.
To me it is about a bigger picture. If the world is merely the hellish nightmare we see, what is the point? There has to be something deeper. And however we come at it, seeing that something deeper gives us peace. Forgiving, letting go of the horrible situation, takes away its power over us. It says--
You can not make me hate you, make me angry, make me destroy my life with your actions. I release myself from your belief that you can control me, my life, my future.
I forgive you.
Namaste. In its spiritual significance this greeting means that we recognize and salute the sense of a higher power in the other, as in ourselves.