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If you want to be happy, learn to forgive

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“The only way to experience healing and peace is to forgive,” writes Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu in their recent book The Book of Forgiving. They remind us, “Without forgiveness, we remain tethered to the person who harmed us. We are bound with chains of bitterness, tied together, trapped. Until we can forgive the person who harmed us, that person will hold the keys to our happiness; that person will be our jailor.”

I know exactly what they are saying because of a letter I received from a woman who read one of my books. She had been violently raped twice when she was twelve-years-old. She was now sixty-seven and she had never told anyone about the horrific incident. For fifty-five-years she was angry and full of rage until she read a quotation by Dale Carnegie in my book. The quotation was:

“When we hate our enemies, we are giving them power over us: power over our sleep, our appetites, our blood pressure, our health and our happiness. Our enemies would dance with joy if only they knew how they were worrying us, lacerating us, and getting even with us! Our hate is not hurting them at all, but our hate is turning our days and nights into a hellish turmoil.”

After reading it, the woman said that the words impacted her in a profound way. It gave her courage and enabled her to forgive her abductor. “I’ve taken my power back.” she wrote, “and it has changed my life.”

If you want to change your life, then you need to forgive—both those who may have caused you harm as well as yourself.

“Sometimes extending forgiveness can be incredibly hard,” says Ira Byock in his book The Four Things that Matter Most. But, he continues, “forgiveness is always possible—and necessary if people want to break free of the past and become healthy and whole.” “Forgiveness is not about the other person; it’s about you,” says Byock. “Whether or not the person who abused you benefits from your forgiveness, is not the issue. The issue is the quality of your life. Forgiveness is an act of affirmation on your part. It is a way of letting go of old wounds that weigh you down.”

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