Understanding takes time.
When we open to abundance, we can enjoy the fog lifting from the morning’s melting snow, and the steam rising from the hot bowl of tomato soup on our lunch table. We can appreciate the half smile of the tired waitress, the silver crescent of the moon at twilight, the unstoppable laughter of children in the schoolyard, and celebrate the fact that we are here, breathing and alive, on this marvelous earth. — Jack Kornfield
“It’s easy to judge. It’s more difficult to understand. Understanding requires compassion, patience, and a willingness to believe that good hearts can sometimes choose poor methods. Through judging we separate. Through understanding we grow. — Doe Zantamata
For several years after my inheritance was stolen I mulled over the injustice of it, there were many unanswered questions about how and why it happened. I couldn’t see the reason. I kept thinking there must be a logic I couldn’t grasp. I was told it was simple, that my brother was a criminal, that he was jealous of me and my obvious talents. I wanted a convincing rationale, but those failed to convince. They seemed too shallow, too cut and dried, too easy. My ego toyed with palliating analyses but in the end I always kept looking, questioning.
I was looking not to aleve injuries to my pride. I really wanted to understand, and if possible to forgive. The last thing I want is an unhealed injury that I nursed to my dying day. I don’t want toxins circulating in my bloodstream.
So I kept the question open. Another brother said, with great finality, “I don’t care about him.” I could not say or feel that, not because I’m noble, I simply don’t want a festering, unresolved issue releasing its poisons into my heart and mind. I don’t believe either that things are so black and white.
I felt it was my responsibility to find an emotional resolution somewhere in the regions of understanding and compassion.
Eventually, I woke up one day with a feeling of compassion and empathy for my brother because I sensed his lifelong suffering. I could plainly see his attempt to regain some ground in terms of respect of society and a positive self estimation he had been denied growing up.
In other words, I had a sudden clarity about his wounds and how they affected his actions. I’m an older brother, so I’m privileged to remember his story and how it began. I’m probably more aware of his injuries than he is. I’m sorry for adding to them upon occasion or even for standing by as a neutral observer.
Oedipal dramas extend back generations in my family, and it suddenly dawned on me I had wandered into the sacrosanct territory of his relationship with his mother. Not having been particularly close to either of my parents, it never occurred to me how he might feel when my mother turned to me for help in her old age.
It also never entered my mind that her financial resources would not be seen as belonging to her to do with as she pleased. I felt he was wrong to try to deny her the things she wanted in her last years, to renovate the moribund swimming pool in her backyard, for example. I just ordered it up when she asked me to, no big deal. She had the wherewithal. His reaction, so full of rage and finger pointing seemed strange, confusing.
I understand it better now. I don’t mean I agree or approve, but it’s easier to wrap my head around it now.
It goes without saying I think he was wrong in his actions toward my mother at that time. I’m only saying his character and his motivations were petty and selfish and wrongheaded, but not the inexcusable actions of a blackhearted thief some folks try to convince me of.
I regret he suffered the violations of his spirit all through his life. I hope he has healed himself in the years we haven’t spoken. I hope he has grown beyond the need for ego salve, that he has found a good life and a good life partner. I certainly hope he doesn’t die with bitterness in his heart.
- Anima Fire is my publications