StatueI think it was in High School when I last thought about ‘winners’ so much. Then ‘winners’ were the people that wore the right clothes, played the right sports, said the right things, listened (and knew) the right music, etc. I’m not sure I ever fit into that category.

I’m so glad all this has changed in my mind!

Now, I see winners as the people that take responsibility for their lives and live with integrity. That’s not to say they are perfect. They make mistakes, and even do things that occasionally hurt other people. But they take responsibility for their actions. They take a hard look at and own what they did, and acknowledge the reason (hint: it almost always has something to do with an ego need – greed, self-validation, fear, etc). They make amends to right the wrong.

They also let go of any resentment they have around the other person’s actions. They forgive. Maybe not right away – this is a process that takes time, sometimes a long time. But they set the intention to let go of any negative feelings about another person in their heart, and they do what it takes to reach that point.

I really got thinking about this when I saw Oshea Israel talk during the Forgiveness360 symposium in St Paul. He stood up, stated what he had done, and took full responsibility for his actions. He admitted that what he had done came from years of not taking any responsibility, of blaming everyone for everything that happened in his life. It took him years to see how his life had spiraled out of control from not taking responsibility, landing him in prison. But something changed in him, and now he strives to take full responsibility for his life.

He also works to forgive himself, because, as he says it, holding on to the guilt and shame only diminishes his ability to see himself as able and worthy enough to make a valuable contribution and do anything with his life. Such wise words!

So he’s working on self-forgiveness because he knows that’s what he needs to do, but he says it’s not always easy. All I wanted to do was to go up and give him a big huge bear hug.

So what did he do? He murdered someone.

Yep, all I could think about was how I wanted to give this beautiful person – a murderer – a huge bear hug. (More on his story here and here.)

I didn’t get my chance to give him a hug, but I did have a brief exchange with him and just said “good work.” Then my eyes teared up and I was at a loss for words. He was a winner in my book.

I define forgiveness as not holding resentment towards another person – it doesn’t mean condoning or diminishing what was done, foregoing justice, or even accepting that person back into your life. Taking responsibility for our own actions and forgiving others isn’t easy. Sometimes I think it’s the hardest thing in life to do.

I recently had a fight with a family member. It wasn’t pretty. Both of us said hurtful things, and I’m at a stage with it that it still feels raw. I’ve looked at how my actions came from a place of fear and pain, and how, if I hadn’t taken personally what had been said, I would have reacted very differently. I would have been able to be much more supportive, to listen to what was beneath the words, and to find a mutually acceptable solution. This person was in a difficult place, so what was said wasn’t personal, but I took it that way and responded with hurtful comments back. My ego was fully engaged. My higher self was completely ignored.

Now I’m in the process of owning my piece of the situation, the part of me that got triggered. A part of me wants that person to own their piece. That’s my ego saying: You’ve been hurt and deserve an apology. That’s okay for my ego to say that – that’s what the ego does best. But I’m not going to listen this time.

The holidays can be difficult times for many. I really believe we picked the families we did to be confronted with whatever it is we need to learn in this life. In my situation, what’s done is done. Now the inner work begins.

I own what I did. I said hurtful words out of anger, fear and pain and am sorry about that.

To this family member I say:

I am sorry.

Please forgive me.

Thank you.

I love you.