08/18/2010 10:24 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Forgiveness Is a Personal Journey

I just came home from seeing the movie "Eat, Pray Love," written by Elizabeth Gilbert, starring Julia Roberts. This is not a movie review, but rather a thought that I would like to discuss that was prompted by one sentence in the movie. It was when Liz was talking to Richard, in India about the fact that she was waiting for her husband to forgive her. WOW, how many of us are waiting for someone to forgive us? Meanwhile, they may not even know that we feel as though there is something to forgive. We may be holding on to guilt or shame that the other person is not even aware of.

I believe that forgiveness is a personal journey. How can one person say to another that they need to forgive someone? Does that not elevate that person to the position of God or judgment at least? The only person responsible for forgiveness is the one who feels the need to forgive. Often the feeling of the need to forgive another or to be forgiven by another is the need to forgive ourselves.

Why is it that we feel as though we can forgive someone else for something they have done to wrong us or another, however, when it comes to forgiving ourselves for a similar action, we hold on to it and refuse to let it go? Do we do it out of fear that we will do the same thing again -- and then what? Or do we just not have the skills or the knowing of what it looks like to let something go? Have you ever felt as though you have forgiven someone and then suddenly known, deep within your heart, that you may have thought you had forgiven the person but you did not let go? What did you do then?

May I suggest that forgiveness is an personal journey and one that begins with you. Just as learning to love others begins with learning to love yourself so the same with forgiveness. As you learn to forgive yourself, whatever that looks and feels like to you, then and only then will you truly be able to forgive others. As a result of you forgiving yourself, you will not feel the need to hold onto what you think others need to forgive in you.

Where did the thought come from that someone else needs to forgive you? Have you spoken to them about it? How can you say that you cannot move on until someone forgives you? That is an assumption which is not based on fact. And, even if it is based on fact you cannot force someone else to forgive you because as I mentioned earlier, forgiveness is an individual act.

I will share this story in light of forgiveness. Often, when I am speaking on the topic of addiction, someone will ask me what is the best thing that I can do for an addict and my answer is always the same, take care of yourself as you don't know when the addict may need you. Well, when it comes to forgiveness, the best thing that you can do for others is to forgive yourself, as you don't know when someone may need your strength, your words of wisdom, your courage to let go and move on.

Elizabeth Gilbert and Julia Roberts, thank you for the reminder that forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves that ultimately the world will benefit from.

Love, light and HOPE. Trina