On a particularly uneventful Thursday morning, I was invited to one of those fancy media phone conversations with Iyanla Vanzant: motivational speaker, author, and host of Iyanla, Fix My Life. I’m still not sure how or why I was mistaken for a respectable journalist, but if you know me from my other blog, you know that I live for personal development and spirituality. I wasn’t passing this up. Ms. Vanzant, whose newest book is called Forgiveness: 21 Days to Forgive Everyone for Everything, broke down what forgiveness is, how we obtain it, and why you need to partake in forgiveness now. She opened the telephone call with lots of gratitude, but, in typical fashion cut to the chase with one sentence.

“While it seems that everyone has a different challenge, a different issue or a different story…at the core of every single issue and every single story, there is an upset or a wound that needs to be healed.”

“Forgiveness,” she added, “is the universal resolution to every single problem.  I don’t care what the problem is. There is something that needs to be forgiven.”

It is so easy to get seduced into the drama and details of our own unique stories. As a writer, I can transport myself directly into moments of past transgressions. With the wave of a pen, I can conjure the scent of his skin, and recall the way the light hit his fresh haircut. I can count the number of buttons on his dress shirt, and vividly recall the way his shoulders slumped as he walked out of my apartment. If I’m not careful I can live in that memory and, as a result, live out patterns of victimization and heartbreak. Forgiveness helps us break old patterns.

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Sometime last year, after a particularly bad situation, I set out to do 30 days of forgiveness prayers. What I found out was that I had to choose to release the hurt. The prayers brought things to the surface, but, ultimately I had to let things go. Forgiveness is very rarely about another person. Though I may not have consciously asked for the incident to occur, I ultimately had to decide how I would clean up the mess left behind.  Part of truly clearing and healing is, in fact, acknowledging and forgiving ourselves for how we were complicit in our own dramas. We have to forgive ourselves for giving events meanings and interpretations that disempower and terrorize us. Our interpretations of the things that happen, more often than not, screw us up. The incident may only last seconds, but how we’ve defined it is what continues to haunt and scar us. Forgiveness gives old events new meaning.

“It’s our response to what happens that sets up the wounding, the healing or the upset,” Iyanla said. “Until we can forgive ourselves, until we can forgive ourselves for how we participate in our own difficulties, it’s going to be difficult to forgive [others].”

Going beyond traditional forgiveness, Iyanla specifically mentions black woman, and our need to release pain, shame and anger that seems to be ingrained in our collective psyche.

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“We [black women] stay angry about what we know to be cuts in our soul – the things we’ve heard, and the things we’ve seen. Things that have been said to us, things that have been said about us, things that we desire, but don’t seem to be able to accomplish, so forgiveness is if you just want to feel better.”

“And you don’t have to be doing badly,” she adds. “This is not about economics. This is not about class. This is not about education. It’s about being human. It comes down to who you need to forgive because that’s the only thing that’s going to neutralize the energy or take the story, or issue, or the wound to a platform where it can be healed.”

That’s my wish for myself and everyone I know…to step into the place where we can ultimately heal.

Who do you need to forgive, SBM?  I’ve got two copies of Iyanla’s new book Forgiveness: 21 Days to Forgive Everyone for Everything to give away.  Answer the question, and then register for the giveaway here: 

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Patia Braithwaite is a Brooklyn-based relationship blogger and life coach. Her wellness and relationship articles have appeared on The Huffington Post, Yahoo Shine, Clutch Magazine and Bounce Back.com. She is the founder of The Untitled Love Project, a three month coaching program that prompts people to ask the question: What would I do if I loved myself more? Check her musings and offerings out at: www.menmyselfandgod.com.