07/12/2010 11:23 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

The Secret Is Forgiveness: 9 Helpful Hints

"You'd cut off your nose to spite your face" is an old saying that speaks to us of our refusal to forgive others and ourselves. Who carries the burden of anger that affects our lives if we are unwilling to forgive? Anger held onto becomes resentment, and resentment leads to self-destructive behavior until it all becomes a blur of unexpressed thoughts, feelings and actions for which all rational perspective has been lost.

For 35 years I raged on resentments, blaming everyone and everything for my addictions and the mess I called my life. As I trudged the long, difficult road to recovery from my addictions, I learned some valuable lessons along the way. One of the most important was that until I found a way to forgiveness the peace I craved so badly would never be mine. There were nine helpful hints about how to forgive myself and others that not only brought me peace of mind, but showed me a way to happiness. They are:

1. People don't wake up one day and decide to be who they are. They are the result of their own life experiences and the messages they received from important people in their lives.

2. Others don't do things "to" us, but "for" themselves.

3. From the time we reach the age of choice, we have choices not only in how we act, but how we react.

4. We blame others to avoid responsibility for our choices.

5. It's harder to hate a sad person than a bad person.

6. Forgiving others does not mean we have to allow them back into our lives.

7. We don't have to love everyone to act in a loving way.

8. When we hold onto anger until it becomes a resentment, we are getting something out of it.

9. We use not forgiving ourselves as an excuse for failure.

We've all seen the movies, ie: the sad lonely character at the end of his days who never gets the chance to make things right with others and himself. We are pulling for him right to the end, but it's too late. Then there is the uplifting movie where the main character sees the light, makes amends, forgives others and himself, and the movie fades to black with us knowing there is hope. The problem is that in real life, we don't know when our final day will come, and although we've told ourselves all along there will be time... time can run out. The ring of a bell, a knock at the door, and your life can change in an instant. Will there be "what ifs" and "if onlys" because you were unwilling to forgive or be forgiven?

We must tell ourselves when circumstances arise that it's not always about us. That helps us step back, attempt to look at things from a new perspective and really think before we act or react. The one thing I always ask myself is how much of my serenity am I willing to give up for this situation? Then, I consider one or more of the nine helpful hints to find compassion and forgiveness. I want to be happy, and I don't intend to allow some problem that I have no control over (which usually involves another person) to rob me of a moment of happiness, or to lessen the joy I feel each day. What are you willing to give up to hold onto anger and resentments when there is a solution? It is forgiveness.

Barb Rogers, author of "Simply Happy Every Day" and other inspirational books can be contacted at