We are emotional beings. Never discount your feelings. It is our ability to feel and be touched by things that adds depth and colour to our lives. We are also very good at hanging onto emotions long after an event is over. While that’s wonderful when we recall things that elevate us, raise our spirits and put us in a good frame of mind, it can be detrimental if we hold tight to things that have caused us disappointment and hurt.

For everyone, at times it appears that life sucks. Things do not go your way. People let you down. Someone betrays your trust or does something that really hurts you. Sometimes you do or say something that you regret. Hurt comes in all shapes and sizes. It may be physical, mental or emotional. What about someone who cons you and takes off with your life savings. Even if you are not personally involved you may still have a strong emotional attachment to something you witness or the behaviour of someone else. Someone does something you consider unforgiveable.

Most people will vigorously defend their right to be outraged or wounded in some way. In the moment, at the time the incident actually occurs, it is natural to have an emotional response to it. After the initial incident, if someone continually re-runs that response over and over, they reinforce that response and lock it in neurologically. Some people hold tight to an incident and allow it to impact them for the rest of their lives.

“Hang on,” I hear you say. “I will never forget what that */^%@*# did to me.” Nor should you. Forgiveness is not about forgetting your experiences. Forgiveness is not about condoning or accepting someone’s behaviour. Forgiveness does not mean you need to stay in a particular situation or continue to repeat a behaviour. Forgiveness is about learning from the experience and releasing the negative emotion attached to it.

You see, emotions hold an energy. Emotional energy can either uplift and support you or be disempowering and damaging. Emotions such as blame, shame, anger, hatred, resentment and bitterness all deplete you. While the actual incident may be long over, as long as you continue to feel these types of emotions you continue to hurt yourself. This is true regardless of if those feelings are directed towards you or someone else.

Letting go of these emotions does not reduce the significance of your experience. In letting go you take back control of your life. In forgiving you release the negativity associated with the incident and acknowledge it is over.

Every experience provides the opportunity for learning and growth. When you forgive you are able to move forward and take the learning of that experience with you. That is real wisdom. That is real freedom. That is the gift of forgiveness – the gift you give yourself.