So many emotions come up when we think about the word “forgiveness.” It reminds us of past wounds and often triggers feelings of hurt, shame, anger, and resentment. These heavy emotions constrict your ability to be genuinely happy and free to love both yourself and others with your whole heart.

When you’re unable to fully forgive yourself or others, the cuts of those hurts never quite heal. They continue to impact the interactions with people in your life. You may not even realize how much you’re still carrying that hurt. The incidents that hurt you so deeply may have happened years or decades ago, subliminally influencing how you see yourself and your ability to trust others.

No one wants to dig up past trauma and transgressions, or revisit our own guilt-inducing actions from the past. But without pulling the memory of those events out of the shadows and into the light of acceptance and forgiveness, you can never feel free.

Choose Compassion

Forgiveness is a choice. It doesn’t always feel that way, but you can choose to accept your own actions and those of others through compassion. Compassion helps you choose to embrace mistakes as the complicated things they are. When someone hurts you, it’s easy to dwell on your own pain. But a perspective of compassion helps you understand the root of nearly all hurtful actions, aimed at you or taken by you, is fear.

Fear is the opposite of love. Fear is usually what holds you back from forgiveness, from setting yourself or someone else free from the damaging cycle of guilt, anger, and shame. Ask yourself: What are you afraid will happen if you forgive? Are you afraid forgiveness will weaken you? Are you in fear of letting your guard down? Are you scared forgiveness means you condone the trespasses?

When you forgive yourself or someone else, it doesn’t mean you approve of the action or will forget what happened. It only signifies you accept what happened as part of the past and that you can admit we’re all human. That we sometimes make poor choices based in fear.

Trust Yourself

It’s not about being sorry or offering apologies. Your ability to forgive comes from within yourself, not from hearing the words.

Often when we pull the hurt and shame out of the shadows, we can see time is passing. We are different from who we were then. We grow and expand in knowledge and experience every single day. Our hearts have the capacity to love more and more each day. Don’t you want to enjoy the freedom and wonder of feeling more love than fear? To replace anger and resentment and shame with happiness and compassion?

It is possible to acknowledge the hurt and decide to turn the page. Those scars will always be there, and that’s OK. They remind us we are all human. Free will sometimes leads us to poor choices.

Grudges don’t have expiration dates. Sometimes people hold onto the anger and shame forever, allowing it to eat their peace away. Withholding forgiveness may even manifest physically into increased risk for heart disease, lack of quality sleep, anxiety, or depression.

But every day is a new opportunity to choose to let it go. You can choose to surrender the judgment of yourself and others, choosing instead to shift that energy into increasing your ability to love.

Forgiveness is a gift to yourself: It allows you to take your power back. You are no longer in victim energy. It can be a lifelong process, and some days are harder than others. But it can absolutely be a path to peace and greater happiness.

Start right now. Consciously choose to let the bitterness mellow through love and forgiveness, then witness how deep compassion for yourself and others attracts more joy and love into your life. 

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