The Rake by Peter Whelan (Reading time 4 minutes)
For my son, Peter Whelan. I named him after my dad.
Those things that hurt, instruct. – Benjamin Franklin
When I was a little boy, there wasn’t anyone nearby for me to play with.
I grew up in the Irish-Catholic settlement of Brudenell, Ontario, Canada.
It was a ghost town before I was born. Less than thirty people lived there.
But I loved to run around all day and explore our huge backyard.
My teddy bear would sit in my wagon and watch me.
He was blind in one eye, just like my dad.
I loved my teddy bear.
Sometimes, I’d run with my arms out, pretending I could fly.
Have you ever done that?
One day, a rake had been left lying against my wagon, with the teeth side up.
I didn’t see it.
I stepped on the rake.
The handle flipped up and smacked me, really hard, right on my nose.
Can you imagine how painful that was?
It hurt me so much!
I could smell my own blood.
My eyes filled up with water.
But I wasn’t crying.
I want to be clear about that.
I ran to the kitchen to tell my mom.
Mom was usually in the kitchen.
I told her that the naughty rake had hurt my nose.
She kissed me on the nose to make it better.
It didn’t work. It still hurt.
I wanted her to come outside and punish the rake.
But instead she said, “Peter, you’re fine. Go outside and play.”
I didn’t like that.
I mean, whose side was she on?
I was innocent.
It wasn’t my fault; it was the rake that was bad.
Now I was angry at my mom and angry at the rake.
Whenever I did something bad, I was always punished.
That rake deserved to be punished, too.
When my dad got home, I told him about the naughty rake.
Dad listened to me and said, “Show me this rake, son.”
Right away, I felt better.
Dad was on my side.
He would punish that naughty rake.
I showed my dad the rake.
He smiled at me and said, “I know just how you feel, son. This rake has hit me in the face, too.”
I knew it!
He knew this was a bad rake.
It had hurt him, too!
Now he would punish it.
“Does your nose still hurt?” he asked me.
“No, it feels fine now.” But I still felt hurt and angry.
“Son,” he said, “I love you, and I wish I could protect you from all harm. It’s too bad you got hurt, but you don’t have to suffer. The rake didn’t hurt you. You hurt yourself, and now you’re upset about it.”
It was my own fault?
This was crazy talk.
Now I was angry with my dad, my mom, and the rake.
As soon as my dad was gone, I jumped up and down on the rake handle, yelling, “Bad rake! Bad rake!”
I was innocent.
It wasn’t my fault.
I warned my little sister, Sandy, about the rake.
I was her big brother, so it was my job to keep her safe.
“This is a bad rake,” I warned. “Stay away from it.”
Sandy smiled and gurgled.
She didn’t talk much, yet.
She was just learning to walk and kept falling down, all by herself.
I jumped on the rake a few more times, to teach it a lesson.
I had taken my revenge, but I never did forgive that rake.
I mean, how could I?
There was nothing to forgive.
As I got older, I understood that my dad was right.
I had created my own suffering.
I never forgave my dad for not punishing the rake, because there was nothing to forgive.
I never forgave my mom for not taking my side, because there was nothing to forgive.
I never forgave myself.
Some things don’t require forgiveness, because there is nothing to forgive. Just because we feel hurt and angry doesn’t mean we are right in holding it against others. Sometimes we create our own suffering.
Forgiveness is an important principle in my life. It’s one of the seven sacraments in the Catholic faith and it’s central to the teachings of Jesus.
Personally, I don’t feel forgiven just because I went to confession. I have to get to the point where I feel there is nothing to forgive.
I must confess that I don’t recall feeling hurt by someone and being able to forgivethem, while still feeling hurt by them.
Being raised Catholic, this has presented a problem for me. The prayer Jesus taught to his disciples includes, “Forgive us the wrongs we have done, as we forgive the wrongs that others have done to us” (Matthew 6:12, GNT).
To me, that means I must forgive in order to be forgiven.
At one time, I thought that if I didn’t seek revenge, then I was practicing forgiveness.
Now I think that forgiveness means letting go of hurt and not holding something against another person.
I’ve noticed that I’m not alone in holding a grudge.
Can you think of someone who has been a “rake” in your life?
Is it possible there’s nothing to forgive?
Do you know an ‘outragist’ who looks for excuses to be angry? Especially in situations where no harm was meant and you can’t see what the fuss is about.
Regardless of your beliefs, I want to hear what you have to say. Join the conversation at www.TheRakeBook.com
Since 1984, Peter Whelan has worked in the Information Technology (IT) field. That is his calling. He believes IT is all about people. As a programmer, he learned that computers are unforgiving, requiring perfect instructions. As a manager, he saw that people could also be unforgiving, demanding perfection, even when it hurts themselves and others. Peter’s clients trust him to provide solutions that fully and reliably support their business. He uses the lesson of “The Rake” on a daily basis.