The Common Denominator
We all make mistakes. We all occasionally come across too strong, or too vague. Sometimes we may hurt someone’s feelings or betray their trust, and sometimes we may lose a friend because of it. Here and there, pride will get in our way and we may lose focus on what is most important in life. We lose focus on the golden rule, to treat others how we would like to be treated. Or in this case, to forgive others how we would like to be forgiven.
Whether on the offended side or the offender side, forgiveness applies to both. In one case we may be forgiving a family member or closest friend, and on the other we may be on the path to trying to forgive ourselves. Either way, many of us have found that forgiving others unconditionally, no matter their offense, is one of the hardest values to obtain. It can take years to master, and along the way you and many others may get hurt. What matters most is that we continue to love and to respect everyone around us because we all have one thing in common, what I call a common denominator, we are human beings with the need to be loved.
My Test of Forgiveness
I, like many others, have had many chances to learn forgiveness and suspect that I will have many more. One challenge that I am still trying to overcome took place a couple years ago. To some people, this experience may be humorous, but to those who have had a similar experience, you will feel my pain!
Before this particular moment, I never had any problems with squirrels. In fact, I was rather fond of them. Cute little rodents hopping through fields and competing for acorns. They always seemed to mind their own business. I assumed they were all the same and as long as their world did not conflict with mine, we could live peaceably. Well, you know what they say about assuming…It makes an a** out of U and ME. And boy did a squirrel make an a** out of me.
It was a chill, Fall day in 2010. I was doing some cleaning in my apartment and noticed that the trash needed to be taken out. I thought it was going to be an easy task, given that I had taken out the trash in numerous times in my life, and that the dumpster was only a few feet away from our apartment. I put on my jacket and headed out. I knew something was off because as I approached the dumpster, I noticed the lid was down. “Oh well, its an easy fix,” I said to myself as I began to open the lid. Before I knew it, I was being ATTACKED! The lid was only open a few inches when a SQUIRREL jumped out of the dumpster and towards my face. I had less than a second to react and I swiftly moved my head as the squirrel glided past my cheek! Once on the ground, the squirrel looked into my eyes and I swear I heard him chuckle! Then he scurried up into a tree.
This account of the most horrific moment of my life may seem humorous to you, but for me I have yet to recover. I KNOW, as well as the squirrel knows, that this was a premeditated attack. I can still picture in my head the squirrel laughing up in that tree with all his friends because of the epic prank that it had pulled. I lost all respect for not only this particular squirrel and his friends, but for all squirrels in general. You may call me a squirrelist! For the past two years, whenever I see a squirrel, the only emotion that I feel is hate and anger. They were no longer cute and innocent animals, but became evil monsters in my eyes. I knew that these feelings were inappropriate, but I also knew that it would take a long time to FORGIVE these horrible creatures.
How do you know that you did something that is in need of forgiveness? I knew that I should forgive this squirrel the next time that I took out the trash. It was similar to the day prior, but I was much more hesitant and careful when I opened the dumpster lid. I got into the habit of looking into dumpster once it was opened to see if their was a family of squirrels living in there (which I wouldn’t be surprised if there were since they are all just a bunch of dirty minions 😉 When I looked in this particular day, something startling caught my eye. There was a dead squirrel just laying there on a bed of trash. He looked so peaceful yet alone. I figured that he probably was climbing on the telephone wire above and got electrocuted and fell into the dumpster. I should have felt compassion for the little thing, but all I felt was excitement. “I bet you are the same squirrel that attacked me, and this is what you deserve!” This is when I knew that I should forgive these pitiful creatures. Yet, it still took me a couple year to even come close.
Death may not be the thing that leads you to forgiveness, but there are a few things that might. First of all, if you are offended or hurt by someone and you begin to wish bad things to happen to them, then it may be time to forgive. If you start to have mean thoughts about another person, thoughts that you would never have about yourself, then it may be time to forgive. If you lose sleep or feel stressed because all you can think about is what someone did to you, then it is definitely time to forgive. Forgiveness is a funny thing because it is pride that prevents it, yet when you forgive, pride is diminished from within yourself. Peace cannot exist in a human being, when pride and hate abound.
Squirrels and Forgiveness
The reason I decided to write about forgiveness and squirrels is because last week I reached a stepping stone. I was walking between classes, and as usual I saw a squirrel hopping across the quad. Normally I would sneer at it and keep on walking, but this time I watched. I watched intently. I may have even stopped and stared, I don’t remember. What I do remember is the smile that slowly made its way across my face. The tiny creature, moving a little ways then stopping to readjust the acorn in his hand, and then moving once more, over and over again. This little guy scurried right in front of me, stopped, and looked into my eyes as he nibbled onto his acorn. This is the moment when I knew I could finally forgive squirrels. They are not all the same, and I could not longer let the actions of one ruin my relationship with all. In my mind I heard the words, in a squeaky voice, “See, we aren’t all that bad!”
My friends, this has been the best year of my life but also the hardest. I have learned so much about myself and other people, and I have learned what forgiveness is all about. I am thankful for all the support I’ve been given and for all the love that has been shared. To those who may have been less than kind to me, those who I can no longer call my friends, by no fault of my own, I just want you to know that I forgive you. I love you and hope that some day you will realize that I am the same guy that I have always been. And most importantly, I want to thank you for helping me learn how to forgive. When the day comes that you can accept me for who I am, I will be here to accept you for who you are. I guess the moral of this all is that we can all occasionally be like the dumpster squirrel that changed my life on that chilly Fall day. We just have to make sure that we apologize before we are electrocuted.
Have you ever taken a long time to forgive someone but are really glad that you finally did? Please share by commenting below!