I want to make some changes and improve myself this year. If you could recommend one thing (I could work on) that would have the greatest impact in my life, what would it be?
I answered this same question in January 2013 and my answer was to improve your communication skills, thereby improving your relationships at home and work. You can read that article here.
Improving your relationships will make a huge difference, but I would like to re-address the best way to do that. I now believe, after a year of personal growth myself, the best resolution you could possibly make (that would have the greatest impact on the quality of your life) is to forgive yourself and others.
Forgiveness is the key to happiness.
Think about what you really want most. Do you want peace, confidence or happiness? Do you want a better marriage, a greater sense of self-worth, a sense of safety and security, or just some hope?
Forgiveness will give you everything you want.
Forgiveness is not easy, though, and I am not going to make light of the horrible things people have done to you. I know firsthand how difficult it is to let go of these grievances, but you must do it if you want peace, self-esteem and joy.
To make forgiving easier I am going to teach you some principles that will help you look at these situations from a fresh perspective.
Principle 1: You alone are responsible for the pain you are experiencing. No situation can cause you pain, because your thoughts about the situation are in your control. No one can take away your peace or give you peace. You alone have that power. If you struggle to understand this principle, read my article about choosing to be upset.
You have the power to choose peace, joy and confidence. You cannot be hurt or diminished unless you choose to be.
Principle 2: You cannot be diminished because your value is infinite and absolute. Whatever mistakes you have made, they don’t change your value. Your value cannot change because life is a classroom, not a test — and your value isn't on the line. You are always perfect as you are, where you are, right now in your journey of learning and growing — and so is everyone else.
At least you have the option of seeing people this way if you want to.
If you hold onto anger and the right to condemn others because you think you must do this to defend yourself, you are actually giving power to the idea that you can be hurt or diminished. You are choosing to see yourself as vulnerable and thereby giving people power to hurt you.
When you see yourself as bulletproof, you let attacks roll off because they have no power.
Principle 3: Life is a classroom and every offense or mistake experience is here to teach you something. Every situation that shows up in your life is there to teach you to forgive and love at a deeper level. We know this because learning to love is why you are here. When you make a mistake you should learn from it, then forgive yourself and let it go. When someone else does, you point it out in a loving way so they can learn, then forgive and let it go.
(Just FYI, your spouse and children will be your greatest teachers. Your family is your primary forgiveness classroom. When you see your family life this way, you will finally be seeing it accurately. Every fight or disappointment is a chance to practice and all marriage problems are forgiveness issues.)
Principle 4: Real forgiveness means seeing yourself and other people accurately — as innocent, completely forgiven, struggling, scared, messed up, but perfect students in the classroom of life, with lots still to learn.
Forgiving does not mean seeing these people as guilty and condemning them for their mistakes, and then trying to pardon them because you know you should. If you try to forgive this way it will never happen. You will still be hung up on the fact that they don’t deserve it.
Forgiveness cannot be a gift undeserved, because that mindset is still wrapped up in judgment. Real forgiveness only happens when you let go of judgment.
Real forgiveness happens when you understand that perfect love has already forgiven all the wrongs, pain, and hurt on both sides anyway. It is about understanding that the entire past has already been wiped clean of all fear-based behavior and every moment is a chance to start over and do better.
We are all scared, struggling students in the classroom of life, doing the best we can with what we know — and more learning, love, wisdom and understanding will come to all of us eventually. We will figure out what we did wrong and why. In the meantime, we must give each other permission to be a student who is still learning. We must not crucify each other for every mistake or fault.
Real forgiveness is about giving the gift of innocence to others because you want it for yourself. It is about understanding that you get what you give.
The key to forgiveness lies in one very simple choice that you must make over and over, every moment of your life, and it is a simple choice because there are only two options:
1. You can live in judgment of yourself and others, condemning and crucifying yourself and others for every mistake. But if you choose this, it will also mean experiencing guilt, pain, self-pity, anger and low self-esteem. This happens because when you choose a judgment mindset toward others, you will also feel subconsciously judged and suffer from a fear of not being good enough.
If you want to escape that fear, you must choose option two.
2. You can choose to forgive yourself and other people, and let go of every misconceived, stupid, selfish, fear-based mistake either of you has ever made. You can choose to see these mistakes for what they really were — bad behavior born of fear, confusion, self-doubt, and lack of knowledge. You can choose to see everyone as innocent and forgiven by perfect love, and in doing so let them and yourself start over with a clean slate every day.
If you choose this mindset you will feel safe, loved, whole and good enough all the time, no matter what you do.
How do you want to live?
(You should not put up with mistreatment or abuse though. You should ask other people to honor your value the same way you will honor theirs. If someone refuses to do this, you may choose to love them from afar and not maintain a relationship with them, but you must still see them accurately and forgive them, if you want peace.)
If you struggle with forgiveness, I encourage you to work with a counselor or coach this year who can help you battle the issues that make forgiveness difficult. I also have some forgiveness worksheets on my website that may help.
You may also want to follow me on Facebook or Twitter this year. Starting Jan. 1, 2014 I will be posting daily lessons from the “Course in Miracles.” Practicing these simple lessons will change the way you see yourself and your life forever and help you to escape fear.
You can do this!
Kimberly Giles is the founder and president of claritypointcoaching.com. She is a sought-after life coach and popular speaker who specializes in eliminating drama in the workplace. She offers free coaching calls every Tuesday night.
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These articles were originally published on KSL.COM