Have you ever made a mistake? We all have! If your mistake caused harm or inconvenience to another person, you might choose to apologize and ask for forgiveness. If someone caused you harm, you also have a choice to forgive that person.
Holding on to hate and blame for the people who harm you may make you feel like the keeper of justice, but all you're really doing is stoking the coals of a dangerous fire burning within you. While justice and the law should prevail when someone commits a criminal act, the law can't heal the human heart. Forgiveness can. Another way of looking at it is through the words of Oscar Wilde, who said, "Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much."
It's also best to give yourself a break by forgiving your own wrongdoings. Once you forgive yourself, you can let go of the pain, guilt and the past, and continue to live in the present with a clean slate and a light heart. Of all the prejudices and stubborn opinions we harbor, we save the most judgmental and condemning for ourselves. "I should've, could've, would've, I can't get anything right, I'm no good." Women are known to say, "I'm sorry" habitually, as if they were responsible for every problem in the world. Even for the smallest infractions that shouldn't warrant a second thought -- like eating that piece of chocolate cake.
If we're not accustomed to forgiving ourselves, it's difficult to forgive others. When my younger sister committed suicide in her early 20s, I imploded with guilt. I hated myself for not being able to prevent her death, and I hated my sister for causing my family so much pain. Then I hated myself even more for hating her! The months following her death were filled with depression, anxiety, and a depth of sadness so dark that I felt as if I were living in a thick black cloud of smoke, smoldering in its putrid fumes. I finally decided to see a family counselor. After a couple of months, I was able to rise above the cloud of darkness, but only after I forgave my sister and myself for our mistakes. I learned that I couldn't continue to blame myself for another person's actions.
Each experience you have in life is a lesson, especially those that are most damaging to you. Once you forgive yourself and others, you give yourself the gift of emotional freedom.Here are five ways you can start practicing forgiveness:
- Find the lesson in your mistakes and then move on.
- Apologize when you've hurt another person.
- Know that all people are capable of love, even when their actions say otherwise.
- Know that forgiving a person brings peace of mind for oneself.
- If a person causes you emotional pain, tell her or him.
Gandhi said, "The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong." So, are you ready to forgive someone today?
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