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John W. Travis, M.D. & Regina Sara Ryan
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Forgiving Self and Others

Making a mistake and then judging yourself harshly is like paying compound interest on a bad investment. —Doc Childre and Howard Martin, The HeartMath Solution

Most of us tend to be unduly critical of ourselves, and a great deal of valuable life energy is wasted in burdening ourselves with this negativity, guilt, and blame: I should have done this . . ." or "I shouldn't have said that . . ." Some things simply cannot be changed. The question then becomes, "Can we accept these things - and ourselves?" If the media is presenting us with an image of beauty or health based on youth and an unrealistic standard of perfection, it is often hard to feel good about ourselves. Instead, we berate ourselves when we don't measure up. If we can shift the focus from comparing ourselves to others to self-appreciation for who we are, we will be building a foundation of love, inspiring ourselves to change what we can and when we can.

The Serenity Prayer

God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
—Reinhold Niebuhr

The willingness to accept things as they are is the first step toward lasting change. Without the compulsiveness of "have to's," changing can be a joyous adventure.

Acceptance is often confused with resignation, but the two are not the same. At its best, resignation may be a necessary preliminary step toward acceptance. But resignation is more often dry, passive, and lifeless. It is frequently an attitude of defeat. Real acceptance, on the other hand, is a choice, an active and lively process that requires your participation.

You can't rush this acceptance that leads to compassion and forgiveness. You can't force yourself to forgive yourself or others. Any life change, positive or negative, entails some grief, some letting go of what was. And grieving takes time. Acceptance and forgiveness are generally the results of adequate grieving, although sometimes they are simply experienced as an unexpected infusion of pure grace! One minute you feel hatred for someone, and the next you are struck by their pain and forgive them on the spot.

To forgive means to be willing to refuse to hold onto the past; to release grievances; possibly even to reconcile, although this won't always be possible when another person is involved. Forgiveness includes the willingness to look below the surface of behaviors or feelings. Here we find the essence of the precious being, which is ourselves, or another. When you stay connected to that essential "one," forgiveness is so much easier.

Forgiveness of yourself or others often brings with it a relaxation in the body, and peace of mind. This harmony is the essence of health and the heart of wellness.

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