Take it from me: If you're struggling with forgiveness, be gentle with yourself, because I've learned that forgiveness is a process, and it takes time.

What is forgiveness? It's letting go of a resentment, giving up feeling harmed or damaged. That doesn't mean the harm or damage didn't happen. It means that you're not going to keep revisiting it over and over again, staying stuck in your resentment of the person who caused the harm. Even if it's you.

I've prayed for help with forgiveness. I've tried to talk myself into it. And often, I've pushed myself to the forgiveness finish line before I was really ready to take the action of actually forgiving, only to find myself right back where I started: resentful and feeling bad.

So, to truly get to the place I wanted to be—which was to be a steady, solid, peaceful, forgiving person—I started with myself.

When I found myself berating myself for choices I made, opportunities I missed, people I misjudged, behaviors I condoned, the whole thing—I stopped. "No more." I started being kind to myself. Over and over again.

Once I started easing up on myself in this way, I found myself being able to ease up on others. I realized that what I needed, so did they. If I had made mistakes and deserved to be forgiven, so, too, did they. If I had hurt another and could be forgiven and move on, so, too, could they. If I had been critical and judgmental of someone and could be forgiven, so, too, could they.

In other words, if I could let go of my resentments and judgments of myself, I could and should let go of my resentments and judgments of others and just plain move on, instead of staying stuck. I had to give what I was seeking for myself.

Forgiveness is letting go of the need to feel like a victim. Work on it. You'll lighten your load—the load of negativity you carry around.

I've Been Thinking This excerpt was taken from I've Been Thinking...: Reflections, Prayers, and Meditations for a Meaningful Life, by Maria Shriver. Shriver is a mother of four, an Emmy- and Peabody Award–winning journalist and producer, the author of six New York Times best-selling books and a best-selling coloring book, an NBC News special anchor and the founder of the Women's Alzheimer's Movement.


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