One of the hardest, and most important, lessons I've learned in my life is forgiveness, and I learned it after it was too late.

My parents divorced when I was young and my father wasn't around much when I was growing up. As I became an adult, he tried to reconcile our relationship. I was bitter and didn't want to forgive him, so I kept him at arms length.

We talked from time to time, but it was superficial; we never re-established our relationship. He died unexpectedly at age 54, before I could even think about forgiveness and reconciliation.

By the time my brain woke up, I realized he was gone. It was too late. I don't know what he thought about our relationship when he died, but I hope he chose to believe we were in a good place.

Two days after his funeral, I lost it. I'm even tearing up here as I write these words because I can feel the pain. It hit me all at once: he was gone, he wasn't coming back and there was nothing I could do about it.

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That day was the day I learned the importance of forgiveness and how important it is to the healing process. Here are three lessons I wish I had learned before it was too late.

1. Bitterness will change you.

It starts as not forgiving, but eventually turns into bitterness and anger. That person (or situation) wronged you, and the more you think about it, the angrier you become. I wish it stopped there.

That bitterness takes root and starts to spread. If left unchecked, it can consume you and transfer into other areas of your life. Have you ever noticed that if you're mad about one thing, it leads to arguments with your partner about something completely different?

Over time you change and see the world in a darker light. Don't let it get to that point. As hard as it is, forgive and try to forget. Getting that anger and stress off your shoulders will do wonders for your mind and your health. This is easier said than done, but if you can figure out a way how, you will heal and grow as a person.

2. Life is too short.

Each of us only gets one life to live, and time is the one thing we can't get back. When we spend any of that precious time on bitterness, we're making our life shorter. The worst thing you can do is to come to the end of your life with regret.

Wasting time will be a huge regret if you don't do something about it right now. Forgive, let that bitterness die down and live every day as if it were the last.

There are times when you get deeply hurt — I get that. But there are times when what happend won’t matter in the grand scheme of life. During those times (when it’s not a deep wound), forgiveness can help you move on and help use the time you have on the things that really matter.

3. You can't move forward living in the past.

If you're going to move forward and claim the life you truly deserve, you have to let go of the past. No matter what happened, and no matter how you were wronged, you have to let go to heal. This ISN’T for them. This is for YOU.

It wouldn't make sense to overcome a hurdle and then go back and try to jump it again. Once you've cleared that situation, once you've forgiven and forgotten, push forward.

Someone may have wronged you and hurt you, they may have put you down and made you feel a certain way. If you're going to heal and move past them, you have to let go of that bitterness and forgive.

Forgive, try to forget and move forward in your life. That's how you life a life of no regrets. If they have trashed your dream, forgive them and use it as motivation to prove them wrong and live YOUR freedom.

If it's a deeper issue, talk to someone; get it out of your head and verbalize what you're going through. Those are tough situations, but forgiveness is an important part of healing, even if you just forgive them in your mind.

You are strong and powerful and better than what was done to you. Don't let that person or situation define you.

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