Step 6 - Forgive myself and others

Over the next few months, I'll be basing my articles on this "12 Steps to Happiness" post.Living a balanced life and finding lasting happiness is not easy. Our world changes so much so rapidly that we can hardly keep up, and I'm not just talking about new technologies. Society's ever-changing take on what constitutes acceptable behaviour, morals or even table manners leave many of us confused and feeling like relics of better days long gone. What used to be taboo is now hip (or, in / cool / phat / tight - whatever the current adjective is), and what used to be flavour of the month is now stale garbage. Why, then, when we have no problem with throwing away or replacing mobile phones or sunglasses every season, do we find it so hard to let go of grudges or embarrassing memories as if our lives depended on them?Three years ago, your best friend kissed the guy you were dating and you haven't spoken to her since. You never heard from that guy again either, and you can't even remember his name, because you found the love of your life soon after. Now you're about to get married and that best friend of yours is not going to be there. You miss her, but you cannot let go of that feeling of betrayal and disloyalty. You think you'll never be able to trust her again, but at the same time you want her back in your life. What's keeping you from picking up the phone and giving her a call?Last year, your grandmother died and you couldn't fly back home for the funeral. You felt and still feel terrible. Your family understands, nobody is giving you a hard time, but you can't help yourself - you feel guilty for not being there and thus suspect Uncle Marc and Aunt Lisa are badmouthing you behind your back.We're all people, and all people make mistakes. It's in our genetic make-up. It's just what it is. The way we deal with those mistakes is up to us. Should you invite the former best friend to your wedding and leave her alone with your husband at the rehearsal dinner? Maybe not. But giving more weight to one mistake than to the years and years of friendship might not be the answer either. Let it also be very clear that forgiving is not the same as condoning: if you do decide you are ready to let go of the pain and hurt feelings the situation caused you; that does not mean you have to meet up for lunch and catch up. We'll be getting back to this in a later post, so suffice it to say here that living in the past by keeping painful, embarrassing or otherwise negative memories alive is of little value to your present pursuit of happiness. If there's nothing you can do to change the situation (which, let's face it, you never can with something that's already happened) the most productive way of looking at it is this: what can you learn from it, what tools does the experience give you so you're better equipped to deal with it should a similar situation arise in the future?

I understand that our past experiences are what made us who we are today, and that it can be very difficult to let go without a feeling of losing our foundation. The fact of the matter is, though, that holding on to bad stuff is holding us back, limiting us, stinting our growth. There are many excellent visualisation exercises out there to practice forgiving others as well as ourselves for making mistakes and not being perfect. I enjoy Louise Hay's affirmations and "letting it flow down the river" meditation. Do you have any favourites?

I invite you this week to think about who has done you wrong in the past and whom you have crossed, and how you could work on accepting what happened, making the most of it, and finding inner peace about it.

Til next time!

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