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We’re all trying to load up the New Year with good things and good intentions. “New Year, New Me,” as one of the sayings goes. But if you’re still recovering from credit card hangover from the holidays, don’t fret. One of the best gifts to give yourself is actually free—forgiveness.

It can go both ways: forgiving someone who’s wronged you, and then forgiving yourself. It’s one of the most important actions to actually apply. Lack of forgiveness is often tied to the stories we tell ourselves which may or may not be true, and those stories drive the agenda. Most of the time, we feel we’re justified in being steamed, and we deserve to be angry. It can be easy to say forgiveness is a great concept, when we’re really thinking…”you don’t know what he/she did to me or you wouldn’t be saying that.” Yes, that’s the challenge.

But here’s a new way of thinking about it. Being unforgiving rarely hurts the other person at all. It does hurt us, however. That means we carry around the hurt, the pain, the anguish, and anger we might think the other person deserves. Besides, it takes a lot of energy to be angry and unforgiving. Usually we suffer more than anyone else because we’re still lifting the burden and carrying it around all day. So, if for no other reason, it’s in our own self-interest to give up lugging that weight. When we do, however hard it might be, it’s like we took a couple of large concrete cinder blocks out of our backpack.

The truth is forgiveness frees us from our own prison. If we’re ever to move forward, it’s understanding that forgiveness actually releases us more than it does them. Why keep dragging around something that doesn’t belong to us and we don’t even want to own?

Then, there is forgiving ourselves. You’ve done it. I’ve done it. We all do it.  We beat ourselves up over something we did that seems too much to let go of. We often say “that was so stupid, so moronic! I can’t believe I did that.” Then we proceed to punish ourselves repeatedly—as if that would do any good. Sure, we can learn from our mistakes, but most research shows that berating ourselves almost never leads to inspired improvement. Best to just learn to laugh at the incident or ourselves, maybe as if it were a comedy show we’re watching. Make necessary corrections, then move on.

Most people who’ve actually practiced forgiving others and themselves say it’s the best present, the best tonic for life they’ve ever taken. As the saying goes,

“I thought as I forgave them, I was setting them free.

Then I learned it wasn’t them. I was freeing me”. 

What a gift to give yourself!