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“Not forgiving is like swallowing poison and expecting the other person to die.” – Nelson Mandela

Forgiveness is essential if we want to move forward in our lives. I’ve met many people who are struggling to create a good life and underneath this block is the unwillingness to forgive someone in their past – whether it be a parent, an ex-partner or a friend. Sometimes they need to forgive themselves. Because they haven’t let go of the old wound, they are carry the baggage of toxic emotions around. If you’ve seen any of Masaru Emoto’s work with water crystals, you’ll know that toxic emotions have a profound negative effect on water … and we are mostly water.Toxic emotions are, basically, deadly. In order to feel joyful and optimistic and manifest what we desire, we must let go of toxic emotions.

Many people confuse forgiveness with forcing an “It’s ok, I’m over it” and allowing the relationship with the person to continue. This isn’t forgiveness. Forgiveness is acknowledging what happened and what was done to you, taking in any lessons you learned from the situation and then consciously letting go of the hurt, anger, sense of betrayal, abandonment or whatever other toxic emotions you’re holding. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you invite this person back into your life. Ask yourself “What is the lesson in this for me? What is the gift?” … there is always a gift.

If you need to forgive yourself for something you have done, then ask yourself what the lesson is for you, make amends if you can to those affected, and then forgive yourself. We all make mistakes. Life is a school and we are here to learn, and we learn from our mistakes (trial and error), not from living perfect lives. By taking in the lesson from your mistake, you know you’ll never repeat it and that you’ve grown. If you don’t forgive yourself, you’ll hold feelings of guilt, shame and self-hatred around with you and punish yourself on an unconscious level in the future.

Forgiveness is probably the greatest human challenge. When we truly accept the other person for who they are, and their actions for what they are, and choose not to take it personally, then we are on our way to forgiveness. You know you’ve forgiven when you feel nothing but neutrality towards the person.  The Buddhists say that life is a series of “disillusionment”, meaning that as we go through life, we experience situations and events that wake us up to reality. When a person can take 100% responsibility for their own life, then forgiveness is much easier to accomplish. Forgiveness can be a process – we can’t always forgive immediately. However when we forgive, we cease being a victim.

So look for the lesson (the gift), move forward, let go of the old hurt and begin to focus on the future you want.