Originally published on DrAndyRoark.com

Whether you’re giving it, receiving it or bestowing it upon yourself, forgiveness is one of the most beautiful things in our lives. Forgiveness is a universal healer. It doesn’t really matter if the person you’re forgiving knows it (unless that person is you) – forgiveness removes the dark stains of negativity from your heart and mind.

I can really hold a grudge, and it is exhausting. It also fills me with negativity and stunts my emotional growth. I have a hard time forgiving people who aren’t sorry for what they’ve done. The kicker is, whether they are sorry or not isn’t the least bit important. What’s important is me letting go of the hurt so I can heal and move on.

I saw a cartoon the other day of a little girl hanging from monkey bars. It said “The only way to move forward is to let go”. That really resonated with me. It was the perfect visual for the feeling I had of being suspended while wallowing in resentment. I’m working on developing the habit of letting go of anger and hurt and embracing the goodness around me. There are people who have hurt me badly over the years, most of whom I’ve cut off completely. While protecting myself from further damage at their hands, I forgot to protect against the damage I was doing to myself. It does no good to release someone from your life if you continue to relive all the things they did that hurt you. It’s like holding a porcupine tighter each time it stabs you with a quill.

Instead, I’ve decided to forgive. If I see them online, pass their neighborhood or town or hear news about them, I say “I forgive you”.  If I’m in a crowd, I say it to myself. If I’m alone, I say it out loud just to make sure I hear it.  The result has been that I feel happier. Each time I say the words, the memories get a little less vivid. The anger is a little less sharp. In some cases, I can’t work up any anger at all.

Forgiveness can feel like a gift to someone who doesn’t deserve it. It’s actually the opposite. Forgiveness does the most for the person who gives it. It’s a gift to YOU, not to the person you are forgiving. If you forgive yourself, it’s even better – you get to give and receive!

Like any skill, forgiveness takes practice. It’s not an end product. Like love, it’s something you must nurture and sustain. Try starving your grudges and feeding forgiveness for a month. Make sure you remember to forgive yourself as well. I’m betting that you’ll notice a new, happier, more peaceful you.

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