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What Nelson Mandela Reminded Me About the Power of Forgiveness (And Why You Need to Forgive, Too)

Release yourself from the prison of your anger and hurt.

Release yourself from the prison of your anger and hurt.

I have admired Nelson Mandela since first learning of him in high school; I immediately dove into books about apartheid, South Africa, and his life story trying to understand the injustice being done there. Looking for something I could do to help, I joined Amnesty International and wrote letters asking for his release. 

Seeing the news coverage of him walking out of prison after 27 years is still as fresh in my memory as if it happened yesterday. He exuded a grace and charisma that was staggering to witness, and remained with him to the day he died.

In his life, he inspired profound change at every level. He helped to end an unjust system and rose to be President of the very country who incarcerated him. He inspired people to come together, to believe in their potential, and to look for the greater good. 

He was, in short, awesome. 

Fast forward to last week…

I had been having a really hard week; the holidays are always a time when I reflect on what could have been, should have been, or might have been, and this year was hitting me particularly hard. 

In the last couple of years, I’ve had a pretty difficult time of it with some major betrayals and massive upheavals. I thought I’d dealt with my feelings about all of it and had put it to bed, but a lot of the anger and hurt I pushed aside was suddenly coming to the surface. 

In fact, for the first time in a year, I found myself angry again about being slandered and ostracized by a start-up company that I worked 80-hour weeks to build, simply because everyone was afraid of the (massively unstable bully) woman in charge, and refused to stand behind me when I stood up to her.

I also suddenly had a surge of old feelings of violation as I thought about our beautiful home being torn up by renters, and then, right after we had gotten things looking good again, their 18 year old son breaking back in a month after they vacated and throwing a party, ruining our wood floor and the beautiful wood tables which we had built right after we were married (we still have things we are repairing from this, a year later). 

And, I was ruminating about why in the world it was necessary for us to be moved to the (extremely isolating) middle of the country in Georgia right after I had just gotten back from a beautiful book tour in Romania. It makes me feel sick that I lost the professional momentum from that amazing trip, but the amount of life upheaval at that time was just too much to try to keep up with. 

You see, I’m a person who likes to know WHY things happen, and I was feeling mad at the universe for this particular crap-storm in the last couple years, mostly because it just seemed unreasonably mean, especially when I try to do so much good. 

In short, I was feeling pretty (uncharacteristically) sorry for myself.

And then I read an article about Nelson Mandela’s passing. 

On being freed from prison in 1990, Mandela had this to say:

”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.” 

If there was ever a wake-up call, that was it. I realized that by holding on to the anger towards those that had hurt me in the past, I was willingly a prisoner of their dungeons, and I really didn’t want to keep giving them that much power. 

Worse, this is a fact I already know—one of the main reasons I see for an illness manifesting is old emotional wounds that were never dealt with and never released. In my work, I help people release them and recover their sense of joy and wellbeing. And yet, here I was, letting all of this get to me.

And worse yet, I realized this amazing man had lost 27 years of his life being unfairly incarcerated. My difficulties hardly seemed to matter, compared to that. If he could forgive and go on to be one of the foremost moral beacons of our time, then I could certainly find it in me to let this stuff go. 

So, I’m officially releasing all of it. I’m choosing to use my own mental and emotional keys to set myself free of this prison, so I can go on to be the best teacher and helper that I can be, so maybe—just maybe—I can do 1/100th of the good Mr. Mandela did in his time on this Earth. 

What do you need to release today, so you can be the most incredible person you can be? Have you ever experienced true forgiveness? What was that like? I'd love to hear your thoughts...


Do you (like me) need to forgive people or experiences in your life? I created this meditation to help (it’s helped me and many other people). 

***Purchase the meditation by December 17th, and you get 50% off! Use coupon code FORGIVE50.

It is an instant download, so you can begin feeling better today! (This is a really good gift to give yourself! It might also help all those family holiday dinners go a bit smoother. :o) )

Forgive Guided Meditation

When you hold a grudge against someone, it causes more harm to you than it does to the person who hurt you. Releasing the emotional wound and finally forgiving is a powerful way to restore your mind, body, and spirit to health, happiness, and love. 

This powerful guided meditation makes the difficult process of forgiveness an enjoyable and rewarding one  - you will begin to feel better after the first time you use this! 

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