Dear Ones –

So I just finished taking Iyanla Vanzant's six week e-course on forgiveness.

This is something I really needed to do for my life.

Forgiveness is a tough one for me, my friends. Believe me — I hold onto grievances HARD. These six weeks have been a great gift of learning and letting go for me.

I'm going to try to share with you some of the lessons I learned this week, in hopes that they are as useful to you as they have been to me…

What I want to talk about today is the question of why to forgive at all.

There was a wonderful moment in Iyanla's course, where a man called in with this question: "My wife lied to me, and cheated on me, and left me, and destroyed our family — but I still have to pay her alimony every month, and it makes me furious. Do I have to forgive her?"

Iyanla's response: "No! Absolutely not. You definitely do not have to forgive her. You can hold onto your anger forever. It's up to you."

It's a CHOICE. Forgiveness is not a requirement; it's a choice. You can forgive somebody, or you can hold on your anger forever. That's the choice. It's entirely up to you.

But at some point, you have to ask yourself whether that anger is really serving you — and if that's the energy force that you want to base your emotional life upon forever.

What do you lose by saying, "I am ready to let this anger go?"

Does it make you weaker, to let go of your anger and righteous indignation? Or does it make you stronger?

When I look at other people who are holding onto their anger, it is so clear to me that this energy is destroying them.

When I see other people who are holding onto their righteous indignation, refusing to let it go, it's completely obvious that they are not living a life of grace.

When I look at other people who live in the past, keeping their old grievances alive forever, it's so obvious that they are only hurting themselves.

When I observe the unbelievable courage and dignity and divinity of people who have forgiven others, it makes me want to bow down at their feet, and learn how to be so brave and so good.

And when people have forgiven ME for my misdeeds, I am so grateful — because we all long to be forgiven, and we all need to be forgiven.

So I knew all that.

And yet STILL, I held onto my own lack of forgiveness.

Yet STILL — even with all the evidence that forgiveness is an act of liberation, grace, courage, humanity, and the highest possible human evolution — I STILL wanted the privilege to hold onto MY anger forever, to keep MY righteous indignation alive forever, to keep MY grievances burning forever…

In other words, I could see easily how other people's lack of forgiveness harms the world, but I could not see how my own lack of forgiveness was harming ME.

That's because I was addicted to my own storyline — addicted to how wrong that other person was, addicted to how unfair that situation was, addicted to how right I was, addicted to how hurt I was.

Then I heard Iyanla say: "Refusal to forgive is an act of violence that you commit against yourself."

The only person who is harmed by your lack of forgiveness is YOU.

When you forgive somebody, you are not saying that you approve of their behavior. You are not saying that what they did was right. You are not saying that you will ever allow them to harm you again. You are not even saying that you would welcome them back into your life (and in many cases, that's not even an option — because sometimes the people whom we most need to forgive are long dead.)

You are only saying that you will not allow your anger and your pain to control your life anymore. Because your anger and your pain are poison. Even if they are "justified", they are poisonous to your heart. And when you refuse to forgive somebody, they will control your life and hold ownership over your emotions forever — even if they are dead, or even if you haven't spoken to them for years.

Many times, we don't want to forgive somebody because we don't want to bless them. But your act of forgiveness HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THEM. Your act of forgiveness is a gift of courage and liberation that you give to yourself. It's a blessing you offer yourself.

Because you want to be FREE.

So this is where the difficult journey toward forgiveness begins — with the idea that you deserve to be free.

Just learning that — these basic notions — I could already feel myself softening.

Because that's all I really want — to be FREE.

Throughout the week, I will keep talking about this subject.

But I wonder if some of you might share your own stories and thoughts and questions about forgiveness here today?

Let us teach each other, and learn from each other…


All my love, and ONWARD,

via Elizabeth Gilbert’s Facebook Wall