We all know your story! We’ve heard it plenty of times and can repeat it to you word-for-word. How many times are you going to re-tell it? You know, the story about how you were picked on in first grade, unfairly laid off from your job after 15 years of dedicated service, and oh, let’s not forget the one about the guy who broke your heart in 1955.

I don’t mean to minimize your experiences, but I’ve got to ask you, what purpose does holding onto the pain others have caused you serve? Rehashing the past and holding onto the anger and bitterness we sometimes allow to take root in our hearts, as a result, robs us of our joy, delays our healing and hinders our progress in life. It also consumes a great deal of our thought life and uses up energy that could have, otherwise, been expended on more worthwhile things such as – fully living our lives and chasing our dreams.

We sometimes make the naïve assumption that holding onto our pain allows us to somehow get back at our perpetrators and makes them suffer. The truth is, it is we who suffer when we choose to hold onto pain and not forgive our perpetrators and set ourselves up to attract even more pain into our lives. It is often said that unforgiveness is equivalent to drinking poison and expecting someone else to die.

When you forgive someone, the main benefactor is you; you finally free yourself from the shackles that have held you captive thus rendering your perpetrator harmless. You relinquish your power when you choose to see yourself as a victim and tell your story from that standpoint, thus allowing your perpetrator to continue exerting power over you. The only way to truly reclaim your joy, sanity and power is by forgiving those who have wronged and offended you, no matter how challenging it might be.

Unforgiveness keeps us stuck in the past and has a negative impact on our present life; it makes it impossible for us to fully live in the moment, difficult for us to move past barriers we’ve set for yourselves as a result of the anger, bitterness, and resentment we’ve allowed to seep into our lives due to unforgiveness, and often times, affects our health, relationships, and interactions with others.

Choosing to extend forgiveness to those who have wronged us does not mean that we condone or excuse their behavior or actions towards us neither does it require us to maintain or in some cases, re-establish a relationship with them; what it does mean, however, is that forgiveness finally allows us to view our perpetrators and even our experiences with them through a different lens and frees us from the emotional and mental baggage that unforgiveness has, unfortunately, weighed us down with.

At times, the person we need to forgive is our self. We at times are our own perpetrator and cause our suffering when we knowingly and continually make choices and decisions that don’t support our wellbeing or aren’t right for us. As long as we stubbornly refuse to acknowledge our role in creating and attracting some of our problems or berate ourselves for past mistakes, we run the risk of repeating similar mistakes in the future and fail to learn from our experiences.

Self-awareness is key to self-forgiveness. For us to truly forgive ourselves, we must be willing to perform a self-assessment to help us determine the reasons why we do and embrace some of the things that we do, and accept responsibility for our actions, choices, and reactions. Unless we are willing to do so, we’ll continue to live our lives from a victim’s stance and shift the blame on life and those around us for our misfortunes and circumstances, thereby, rendering ourselves powerless to make effective changes in our lives. Allow yourself today to finally forgive yourself for all those times you failed to honor, trust and protect yourself, and most of all, for all those times you knowingly failed to act in your own best interest.

Forgiveness allows us to finally see the rainbow after the storm, opens us up to new possibilities and allows us to reclaim our life. Forgiveness makes it possible for us to revisit past experiences that once weighed us down and embrace some of the valuable lessons we learned through them, as a result. Forgiveness allows us to finally take charge of our lives and direct its course; when we refuse to remain and see ourselves as a victim, we stop hindering our own progress in life and allow ourselves to finally become all that we were born to be.