By Malorie Avaline

There’s something about the beginning of a new year that feels significant. There’s a freshness to it that has most of us setting goals and writing out plans for a year full of what we’re turning our intentions toward. I’m a strong believer in goals and although I set them regularly, the perspective that surrounds a new year has my heart and my mind wide open. But what if achieving your goals and creating the life you truly imagine for yourself has nothing to do with goal setting at all. What if it came down to practicing something that gave you strength, taught you grace and resulted in freedom? I’m talking about forgiveness.

We know the quickest way to keep someone from evolving is to hold them to their past. So why do we do it to ourselves? Because it’s easier to give ourselves a “reason” why we were unable to achieve something than to break through the barriers of what creates those lies in our minds that keep us from our potential. You are not defined by the accumulation of your mistakes and failures. And neither is the person who wronged you. The heaviness of a grudge that you carry is a weight on you, not them. The freedom in the release of negative energy, towards others and yourself, will only be experienced through forgiveness. In the process of evolving into the woman you want to be, the ultimate version of yourself, you have to let go of anything in your life that keeps you from rising. Forgiveness isn’t for the other person. It’s for you. It releases pain, disappointment and betrayal. It cleanses the soul in a way that nothing else can. It’s the ultimate path to freedom.

Forgiveness is not a characteristic of the weak. It’s a definition of strength. Forgiving doesn’t mean that someone shouldn’t be held accountable for a wrong doing. Forgiveness is the act of releasing the judgement that surrounds it. Through the practice of forgiveness, you will begin to experience grace. Grace comes with the realization that we are not perfect people—but that we are all flawed, and yet highly deserving of love.

When someone is unwilling to forgive another, it’s obvious. Through our actions and sometimes our words, it is expressed that we are punishing that person for betraying us. But we are really punishing ourselves in the process. Don’t allow yourself to be defined by the wrong moments in your life. And don’t put that burden on someone else. Practice forgiveness and experience the freedom that follows. This includes releasing the emotional ties that create the stories in our heads that we consistently replay on a daily basis. When you are able to forgive, you are then able to create space for healing. When healing takes place, freedom flows. Forgive yourself and forgive others. Surrender the desire to let your ego control your life. A life led by ego is a life lived in fear. Allow love to guide you. It took me a long time to truly understand what forgiveness means. Releasing the pain from others’ behaviors is a challenging practice in the beginning. Especially when it is a deep-rooted pain. Harboring pain destroys your heart, but you don’t have to allow it to. Forgive and release. Although forgiving others is a difficult undertaking that we all must master, the practice of forgiving ourselves is the single most important task we must learn. Forgiveness is an act of love. The highest act of love for yourself.

Originally published in Harness Magazine.

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