By Dr. Matthew B. James


Forgiveness is a theme we sometimes visit around the holidays and is especially important to practice at the start of a new year. For many, the New Year brings with it feelings of motivation, rejuvenation and hope. It is crucial to explore and apply forgiveness to truly conquer last year’s shortcomings and achieve the goals accompanying a new year. Clients tell me it is also a time of reflection for what could have been, or even should have been.

Much of the literature and articles I have seen on forgiveness deals with forgiving others. I believe this is important and in fact teach a specific process in my Huna workshops called ho`oponopono, which literally means to make something doubly pono. Though pono is a word that does not have a specific English translation, the closest word is right, but not as in ‘you are right and I am wrong.’ Pono is the feeling of congruency and calmness that we have all experienced at some point. The sense that everything feels ‘right,’ like feeling so at peace with a person or situation that nothing needs to be said. That is pono.

Through the process of ho`oponopono, I have taught many people to become pono (right) with others. Yet the truth is that we need to learn how to forgive ourselves first. My wife and I were talking about this concept a couple of days ago, and we both admitted we were once very guilty of self-judgment, beating ourselves up for something we should have done or could have done.

My wife feels she was particularly good at harsh self-criticism in the past. As she gained new insight and wisdom about life, her tendency was to pick apart her past behaviors and actions. She shared a specific story that illustrates this:

A few years ago, we were out to dinner with our son, my brother, and my parents. At the next table a child was watching a DVD on a mini-player. My wife made a comment that, when she was brought up, she would not have been allowed to do that. Dinner was for dinner, not for watching TV. “Furthermore,” she explained, “our son is almost always well behaved and never needs anything like this.”
At the time, I didn’t think much of this. About a week or so ago, my wife, my new ten-month-old daughter, and our mothers went to dinner (oddly enough at the same restaurant). During the dinner, our usually well-behaved daughter decided to test her vocal abilities, and to her delight, she found a new range.

Nothing calmed her down! So, my mother-in-law walked her around the restaurant until she relaxed a bit and finally went to sleep. When the screaming began, the first thing my wife remembered was being judgmental of the child watching the DVD years before. She also remembered thinking at the time that it was an inappropriate behavior. And yet, as our daughter’s screaming was occurring, she wished she had a DVD copy of The Wiggles right then!

At the time, my wife did not understand why the other parents were showing the child the DVD. She had no idea if the DVD was helping the child remain calm, or if it was an unnecessary distraction. But my wife did remember feeling judgmental, rather than compassionate. In Huna this is what we would call hala, which means to miss the path or err by omission.

Now that an experience of needing to distract a child in a restaurant had occurred, she had new insight. My wife proceeded to tell herself how wrong it was to have said and thought those things about the other child and his parents. And she caught herself beginning to be self-critical for her judgmental behavior, which occurred in the past at a time when she simply did not understand the dynamics.

But my wife has come to realize that it is counter productive to beat yourself up about something you have already done — even more so about a behavior or action based on an omission (i.e. not knowing something).

Huna has taught both of us that life is about learning. Since there is an infinite amount of information in the universe, there is always going to be something new to learn. Each time we learn something, we have to remember there is a reason for the learning and something we are meant to do with the learning.

We are meant to use the new knowledge to change our actions and behaviors in the future for the better. The new knowledge is meant to help us holomua or imua, which means to move forward, proceed, or progress.  It is not meant to be used to review the past and beat ourselves up for what we should have or could have done. It’s okay that we notice those things from the past, but we have to remember they have already happened and cannot be re-done.

Another way to look at this is that people are doing the best they can with the current resources they have. We are always going to receive resources in the future. Of course if we had them in the past, we would have acted differently. However, we did not have them in the past. We have them now. So these new resources are for now and for the future.

The first step in forgiving yourself, if you come across a memory where you think you should have acted in a different way, is to remember to say, “At the time, I was doing the best I could with what I knew and what I had.” And, at the same time, incorporate the new knowledge to change your future behaviors so you may holomua.

Matthew B. James, MA, DCH, international trainer, lecturer, and educator, is President of American Pacific University and the Empowerment Partnership. His work is dedicated to creating personal transformation by teaching the ancient science of consciousness and energy healing, Huna, with cutting-edge therapeutic techniques. To reach Dr. James, e-mail


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