Our task, if we want to be free human beings -- if we want a life in which we no longer carry around with us "what he did," "what she didn't do," "what never worked out" -- begins with discovering that there can be no real freedom for us until we understand the nature of the tyranny of the past that still lives within us. One of the main areas of this unchallenged dictatorship that still holds us captive is our inability to forgive.
Do you know people -- maybe who aren't even alive anymore -- that you haven't been able to forgive? Are there certain events in your life you just can't release? What you can't release isn't the person or the condition that you see as being the source of your pain. What seems to be "stuck" isn't an old situation you can't release... it's a thought. It's the negative effect of a certain order of mind that, in its darkness, lives as a prisoner of a past presence.
Over and over again, certain negative images -- crammed full of the conflict felt in the moment of their creation -- are unconsciously revisited by a part of us that actually wants that dark visitation. Why? Because this familiar pain confirms, in a very strong fashion, our certainty of who we are by re-creating what once happened to us in life. Something in our own mind actively recollects what it does from our past, regardless of how it wrecks the present moment for us. To be punished by any past presence is to be a prisoner of our own past.
A "prisoner mentality" is part of any thought or feeling that blames something outside of you for what amounts to self-induced pain. Was there a person who did something terrible? Yes. This planet is filled with toxic, cruel human beings -- victims themselves of a pain they can't escape. But does that mean that you should spend your life running, hiding, resenting what was? No! In a word, you aren't free of your own past because you don't see what's happening to you, within you, in the present.
Something, anything -- be it an event, a smell, a sound, a thought -- will stir the mind and call up within it the memory of a person, an event, a condition; and at that moment something in you grabs onto whatever it was that happened, and "bang!" -- bitterness, sorrow, regret, or rage results. With this suffering comes "proof" to the sleeping mind (that is revisiting its own images) of exactly who (or what) is responsible for this pain. Blame feeds the fire, keeping the self in place that feels as though the pain it has is due to the person it blames.
These thoughts and feelings that come flooding back into you are not your thoughts. They have no real right to be there, running through you unattended, ruining your life. But you grant them entrance to your mind and the power to make you ache every time you consent to relive what someone did or didn't do to you.
There is freedom in realizing -- seeing the truth of the fact -- that whatever is holding you captive right now has no right to do so. None! The split second that you see you're a captive of your own mind, you have the freedom to challenge it with the new understanding that belongs to your new, true mind -- a mind that can't be made a prisoner of anything.
If you want to have real forgiveness, it begins with giving yourself up each and every time some past presence presses its will in and upon you. Use the will of your new understanding to lay down your "self" when you see it's needed. Do this, and something new will rise where you once were -- free from the past -- which means you will be free to forgive.