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How to take the power of forgiveness with you into the new year

It’s New Year’s again! If you’re like me, you’ll be making the same resolutions as last year. I want to lose the same five pounds, my home office is still a mess and I continue to let work interfere with my morning exercise goals.

How about making a new kind of resolution this year, one that can actually change your life? That resolution would be to patch up a rift with someone by using the power of forgiveness.

When I put together our book, Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Forgiveness, I was astounded by how many of the contributors talked about the freedom they felt after forgiving someone. They hadn’t realized how much they were harming themselves by holding onto resentment.

My co-author for the book — the actor, writer and producer Anthony Anderson — shared his own story, “The Forgiveness of Robert and Me,” about finally having a meaningful conversation with his mostly absentee biological father right before he died. They talked for hours and it was liberating. Anthony says, “I sleep peacefully at night knowing that I was able to release my father from a burden of guilt as well as Robert releasing me from the burden of anger I had towards him.” And he comments on why we need to use the power of forgiveness and says, “Life is fleeting. We need to live in the moment and love in the moment.”

One of our contributors, Joe Rector, wrote a story called “Coaching the Coach” about what happened when he resigned as coach of his son’s baseball team after some parents complained that their sons were not getting enough playing time. The father who took Joe’s spot exacted revenge on him by not letting Joe’s son play for the rest of the season. Joe remained angry for years, until one day his son said to him, “Dad, it’s time to quit being mad. I’m okay now and don’t care.” Joe realized he was right and he forgave the other father. He says, “Almost immediately, I felt as if a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders.” He was able to enjoy baseball again. The only person he had been hurting during all those years was himself.

As Christina Galeone wrote in her poem called “The Road Ahead,” “anger begets anger” and “rage stumbles forward, steamrolling good as well as bad.” Forgiveness brings peace. Rage and anger bring nothing but more of the same.

One strategy is to focus on the motivation of the person who hurt you. Sometimes, when you realize that he or she didn’t do it on purpose, all the resentment will disappear. And while you’re at it, don’t forget about self-forgiveness. You’re doing your best, right? That messy home office isn’t really hurting anyone!

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