Can Gray Whales Teach Humans About Forgiveness?

greywhaleI happened to catch Fresh Air yesterday and an interview Terry Gross was doing with David Wilcove, author of the new book, No Way Home: The Decline of the World’s Great Animal Migrations.

(You can listen to the interview with David Wilcove here).

I tuned in just as they were talking about the gray whales, a species that had gone from fewer than 100 individuals in the late 1800s to a present day population of more than 25,000. By all estimates a stunning example of how conservation and protection can bring a species back from the brink of extinction.

But what really struck me was the story the author told about the relationship between gray whales and humans and the transformation that occurred after the whales were protected.

In the 1800s these whales were referred to as Devil Fish because of their ferociousness when hunted. And no wonder: One of the methods used to ensure the capture of adult female gray whales was to harpoon their calf first. The whalers knew that a mother would not abandon her calf even if it was dead. In this way the whalers successfully hunted a mother and a calf.

You can hardly blame the female gray whales for acting in this manner towards the whaling boats.

But after the US and Mexican governments began protecting these whales and a few decades had passed an interesting thing happened. Mexican fisherman began reporting that some of the gray whales would come right up to their boats. Some of them would bring their young. And there were even reports of whales coming up and allowing their heads to be scratched by the fisherman.

So in just a few decades these “Devil Fish” had transformed into gentle, curious creatures who liked having their heads scratched by fisherman.

And here we humans are, the supposedly more intelligent species, still hanging on to cultural resentments and hatred from events that occurred hundreds and even thousands of years ago.

Sure there are more recent events that have added fuel to the fire. But most of the conflicts and wars that we are witnessing now have their origins in events that happened decades, centuries and even millennia ago.

And in our own individual lives we hold onto “wrongs” done to us years and decades ago often by people who are no longer living.

Is it possible for us to learn about forgiveness from the gray whales?

What has allowed them to forgive us for the cruelty we inflicted upon them? Have they merely forgotten? Or is their essential, peaceful, nature stronger than any resentment, fear and anger they may have felt?

Are there wounds in your own life that you are keeping alive long after the source of the wound has gone?

Perhaps it’s time to risk going up to one of those boats to see if you can get your head scratched!

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    15 Responses to “Can Gray Whales Teach Humans About Forgiveness?”

    1. Cathy Loewen on December 6th, 2007 1:17 pm

      Hi Ed,
      Thank you for this lovely story. I love whales & have seen the gray whales. I live on Vancouve Island & they go by on their migration route! They seem to touch something deep within.
      Joyful Blessings,

    2. Karen Lynch-Live the Power on December 6th, 2007 12:18 pm

      Hi Ed,
      I got a tingle down my spine as I got to the part where the whales came up to the boats now…
      Everything is connected….
      Can we just share love and appreciation between all of life?

    3. Raymond on December 6th, 2007 3:03 pm

      HI Ed,

      This is a nice story with high moral value. I shall share it with my kids too. 🙂

      Thank you for the lesson and the interview.

    4. Grace on December 6th, 2007 7:05 pm

      Great story. Makes me realize I had been holding on to some hatred I really need to throw away now.

    5. Alex Blackwell on December 7th, 2007 3:07 am


      Great post on the power of forgiveness. I agree with your thoughts. When we don’t forgive it really hurts us, individually, and keeps us stuck in the spot where the transgression happened. Forgiving allows us to move forward and allows us to heal.

      Thanks for sharing this,


    6. Patricia - Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworker on December 7th, 2007 9:46 am

      Edward, thanks for this wonderful story of connectedness and forgiveness. I intend to share it with my daughter and grandchildren. It is a powerful story.

    7. Edward Mills on December 7th, 2007 5:50 pm

      Karen. I got a tingle at that part also when I listened to the interview.

      Cathy. We see them a bit further south, off the coast of Sonoma County and Pt. Reyes. Even watching them from the shore is a spectacular treat!

      Raymond. Thanks for sharing this with your children. I’ll be interested to hear how they respond to it.

    8. Edward Mills on December 7th, 2007 5:52 pm

      Grace. Isn’t it amazing how a simple story can open up such important awareness! Thank you for being willing to acknowledge the hatred and courageous enough to let it go!

    9. Edward Mills on December 7th, 2007 5:54 pm

      Alex. That’s it! We get stuck. And that’s why Grace’s willingness to acknowledge and release her hatred is such a huge step!

      Patricia. As with Raymond, I’m very interested to hear how your children and grandchildren respond to this.

    10. Joy Links-Inspirational Posts for December 8 (Live The Power) on December 8th, 2007 7:48 am

      […] is connected and when we honor all beings with Love and Respect Love and Respect is returned to us. Can Gray Whales Teach Humans about Forgiveness? from Ed Mills at Evolving Times […]

    11. Albert | UrbanMonk.Net on December 8th, 2007 4:23 pm

      Edward, fantastic story. Forgiveness is one of the most powerful things and something that is often misunderstood. The simplicity of this really works.

      Modern personal development, entwined with ancient spirituality.

    12. Raghu on December 10th, 2007 8:15 pm

      Thanks for sharing the story. Indeed quite inspiring to forgive others.

    13. Edward Mills on December 11th, 2007 11:25 pm

      Albert. It really is simple and yet it is usually far from easy! If we could learn just a little from these great creatures we would be much better off!

      Raghu, You’re very welcome.

    14. Leonardo on December 12th, 2007 7:31 am

      The Law of Attraction has many names. The most useful for mankind at this moment is the part of the law that claims that thoughts become things. This is important, but there are other parts of the Law of Attraction that cannot be forgotten. One of the most important part is Love: love is a law of attraction, after all we are attracted to these things or people that we love. Another one: cells. The chemical balance that allow a simple part of an organism to reproduce itself and stay alive. These are all mysteries part of this Law of Attraction. The gravity is also part of it, that that attracts bodies to the center of Earth, that that attracts Earth to the Sun and that that pulls the whole Milky Way into a blackhole, thus forming an spiral. Spirals are a common pattern for the law of attraction. There’s much more to understand from it. I also have a blog on the Law of Attraction that talks about different aspects of this Law and how it can be used.

    15. MARTHA C. on December 15th, 2007 11:33 pm

      HELLO! I love this story, I love ALL animals of this earth, this is truly a great LESSON about forgiveness, & how true we can learn lessons from our animal/ mammal friends. This should be truly inspiring to all mankind!! THANK YOU FOR SHARING THIS GREAT LESSON!! I even found a bit of humour in the comments of the story. I own two loving pets , they love me so much, & it`s a wonderful feeling to be so loved by animals. Thanks alot ED!!

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