Do you want a fresh start for the New Year? Do you want a clean slate?
Making a fresh start often means practising forgiveness. Without forgiveness, you will have more difficulty moving on and getting the benefits from New Year’s resolutions.
You may need to ‘mend fences’ with people close to you by forgiving them for something that has happened in a relationship.
You may need to apologize and to ask forgiveness for your own actions and/or behaviours.
You may also need to forgive yourself for perceived or real short-comings.
Self forgiveness is the hardest part of forgiveness.
Most of us find it easier to forgive others than to forgive ones self.
As I look back over 2013 I remember when I have hurt others, made foolish comments or behaved badly. Sometimes I just ‘lost it’ — perhaps due to other psychological junk that I was carrying around. Sometimes my perfectionist self set impossibly high standards and my real self fell short.
Trying to let go of harsh self judgement is part of my current life journey. I realize that I often cause my own misery, unhappiness and frustration with unrealistic expectations. I often forget my accomplishment and the good things that I do for others. By practising self-acceptance I am learning to be more compassionate and less judgemental with myself — and also with others.
During the last years of my career I met many people from Canada’s First Nations and heard their stories of the effects of colonization, residential schools and racism. Elders spoke of the apologies made by governments, child welfare authorities and churches. To them, some apologies were real; others were insincere.
The elders teach that there are many steps to forgiveness: expressing true remorse, making a comprehensive apology, re-establishing relationships and moving to a new phase of relationship.
They also believe that you don’t just forgive and forget. The past can’t be undone. To truly forgive, you have to remember and then be ready to re-live the emotions of the situation. Healing takes time, empathy and understanding.
Why does forgiveness offer a fresh start?
Quite simply, forgiveness helps everyone involved to move on. The cycle of suffering can stop with the gift of a sincere apology. Forgiveness allows a new — but changed — relationship to form. It allows a fresh start.
Setting aside emotions of hurt, anger, disappointment and lost trust is difficult but acknowledging these painful feelings allows forgiveness.
Sometimes forgiveness means dealing with someone close to you who is no longer a part of your life due separation or death. In such a situation experts suggest writing a forgiveness letter as a way to forgive past wrongs. This is a technique that victims of abuse have used to deal with perpetrators who have done horrible things to them.
Rather than revenge, forgiveness allows a new start. It clears the way for growth and for peace of mind. It heals relationships and enriches life.
A Fresh Start for 2014
For those who want a fresh start for a new year, beginning with forgiveness will make it easier to keep those resolutions.
Nelson Mandela offered his philosophy of forgiveness after 27 years in prison. His words hold true for all:
As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.
I will start 2014 by forgiving myself for things I didn’t finish, for goals that are incomplete, for misdeeds, for foolish actions, and for falling short of my high expectations. I’ll also seek forgiveness of those who I have hurt, and I’ll forgive those who seek forgiveness from me.
All readers can do the same to start the new year. I send best wishes to each of you.