A leg in a trap…

“It’s inevitable that we’re going to be imperfect. We all cause harm. We sometimes cause harm in ways that are very, very hard to forgive ourselves for. But it’s not until we can be with ourselves in a forgiving way that we can do the healing that actually inclines us toward being more helpful and healing for others in the future.

There’s a metaphor about this that I often use when I’m teaching. Let’s say you’re going through the woods and you see a dog by a tree and you reach down to pet the little dog, but it leaps at you with its fangs bared to attack you. In that moment you go from being friendly to angry at the dog. But then you see that the dog’s paw is in a trap. Then you shift from being angry to saying, ‘Oh, you poor thing.’

It’s just like when we’ve caused harm, or when someone’s caused us harm. There’s a leg in a trap. People do not cause suffering unless they’re suffering in some way. Being able to see that doesn’t mean that I then stand there and let the dog attack me. We still do what we need to do to protect ourselves, but it gives us the quality of heart that lets us respond to the situation in a much more compassionate and intelligent way.”

— Tara Brach