I once heard that refusing to forgive someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to get sick. Dramatic as this may sound, take a look at your own life and see if the description doesn't fit in some, if not many, of your relationships.
Certainly, when we're trapped in the world of blame and judgment, forgiveness can seem like a terribly unfair and bitter pill, particularly for those who've endured abuse, loss, and pain. Why should we forgive those who have hurt us? Why should we let them get away with what they've done?
The answer is: so that we can reclaim our own power.
To do so, we need an altogether different perspective on forgiveness than the traditional "right-wrong" model. In this view, forgiveness doesn't mean you necessarily condone what has happened. Neither is it a sign of weakness or resignation; as Gandhi said: "The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong."
Indeed, forgiveness means that you are choosing to release the grip you've continued to allow people and situations from your past to have over you in the present. It is a gift of acceptance you give to yourself; the very gift that allows for true freedom from all that has come before.
In my work, I often encounter performers and professionals stuck in and stunted by past relationships and events that, hard as they try, they simply can't get over. And they try very hard; not only is a great deal of time spent attempting to understand and integrate the hurt and damage they feel has been done to them, these issues often become preoccupations that prevent them from participating in and enjoying life.
It doesn't have to be this way. Certainly there is an impact of what has happened to us; certainly understanding can lead to acceptance and eventually peace. Yet ultimately, a choice must be made: whether we will remain beholden to blame and continue to be a victim of circumstance, or whether we will empower ourselves by accepting and forgiving what has happened, so that we may be free.
Jennifer Hamady is a voice coach and psychotherapist specializing in technical and emotional issues that interfere with self-expression. She is the author of "The Art of Singing" heralded as a breakthrough in musical and personal performance.