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"The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong." 

Mahatma Gandhi

The subject of forgiveness can create debate on many levels. But, just what is forgiveness? Is forgiveness something that we feel or something that we have to do? Is forgiveness something everyone can accomplish? No, forgiveness is actually the act of letting go of anger and resentment at another person who has harmed us in some way. 

How then do we get to a place of forgiveness, especially when we’ve been harmed by another in some emotional, physical, or psychological way? Why would we want to forgive? After all, for many of us it can be extreme act of will to forgive our perpetrator? Thus, the first step toward achieving forgiveness is actually deciding it’s something you truly want to do. To forgive we need to stop feeling angry and resentful towards the person who might have caused us offence or has harmed us in some way. 

Unfortunately, though, the problem we humans have is that we have memories; sometimes the hurt goes so deep that we simply can’t forget. Finding forgiveness can be an almost impossible task. Forgiveness takes strength and depending on the circumstances of the offense we may feel we do not actually have the ability or the will to forgive. 

But, forgiveness does not mean we excuse or forget the injustice we’ve experienced. It simply means we at least work on letting it go by endeavouring to understand the reasons behind the persons actions.  Sometimes it requires immense strength of will and for some of us, working with a counsellor who can guide and point us in the right direction can be the answer. Often simply airing our concerns with a skilled professional and seeing our issues from an external point of view can set us on the path to healing. 

Over time scientific studies have recognised the many benefits of forgiveness. For example, a lowering of blood pressure, increased happiness and friendships, decreased depression, and a deeper spiritual connection. 

Regrettably, I found it difficult to forgive a number of people for the pain I’d experienced at their hands over many years. Fortunately for me I eventually realised that dwelling on past hurts did not serve me at all. I recognised that holding on to the memories and the pain simply held me in a state of despondency – I wasn’t able to progress and move on with my life.

Obviously, if we are to forgive others it makes sense that we should also forgive ourselves.

Obviously, few of us live exemplary lives and every so often we cause others to feel the brunt of our anxt. Often, we berate ourselves feeling guilt or shame over what we might have done or not done, whether it was intentional or not. Sooner or later we are directed to look within ourselves with honestly and examine our past in order to draw valuable lessons from our experiences. 

Guilt, however, can be toxic. It is something that can hide deep in our subconscious to later affect us in our adulthood. Without realising it, many of us have been carrying guilt around with us for years! No one is faultless; most of us have something, sometimes many things, secreted away inside that we regret or think ‘if only we’d done or acted differently’. Guilt can stop us from moving forward with our lives, and experiencing the happiness we deserve. We need therefore to deal with our guilt so that we can move on.

But how do we do this? Some people find writing down the things they feel guilty about can be helpful. For example: I feel guilty for _____; then writing something about how you’d feel if you forgave yourself for these things. Others on the other hand find therapeutic counselling allows them to more easily process their deep feelings of pain and anger. 

Ultimately, only we can decide: do we keep holding on to regret and anger or do we leave the past where it is and concentrate on healing our soul and creating the future we choose to have. We need to let go of damaging memories, of hatred, envy, bitterness, self-loathing and revenge so they no longer shadow our life or get in the way of our potential for future happiness. Life is too short and there is no time for hate - we need to forgive so that we can embrace new opportunities that are surely on our path.

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