Make Peace: Declare Your Personal Amnesty


By Mary Jaksch

Let’s establish our own program of peace and reconciliation, and grant amnesty to all the people we resent and have grievances against. Let us free our prisoners. Let us also let go of our regrets, our losses and failures, our hang-ups and mistakes and handicap, our bad luck and unfortunate experiences.
~ Elaine MacIness The Flowing Bridge

It’s quite remarkable how we can be all in favor of truth and reconciliation programs in the world. We are willing to stand up for world peace. We condemn countries that wage war. We are in favor of releasing prisoners from Guantanamo Bay.

Faced with your own prisoners, we are reluctant to set them free.


Our stories of grievances, of limitations and hard luck are part of our identity. If we let them go, it means letting go of who we think we are. That’s not so easy!

Let go of resentment

Do you hold resentment.? If you don’t know about your resentment, just ask your best friend what you complain about the most. Do you complain about your partner, or about how your boss treats you at work? Or about your family? Or about the government?

I don’t know how it is for you, but in the stories I spin for my best friends, I’m rarely in the wrong! It’s always the other person who is so unreasonable. How about letting go of your resentments?

If we let go of resentments, we also free ourselves.

Because, it’s not only the ones who have wronged us who are imprisoned, but we are also incarcerated with them. Let’s unlock the doors and throw away the keys!

If you feel a reluctant to give up your great story of grievance, ask yourself how long you want to go on carrying it. Another hour? Another day? Another week? Another month? Another year? For the rest of your life?

Let go of regrets

“If only I had…”  This is the ‘lost opportunity’ story that we all play in our mind at times.

Another favorite is: “If only I hadn’t…” This is the ‘I made a mistake’ story.

What about “If only she/he hadn’t…”. I bet you know one too!  It’s the ‘It was all her/his fault…” story.

Let’s declare our personal amnesty and let those stories go too!

As we go through our personal prison and throw open the doors, we come to the section where we hold our losses.

Let go of loss

Do you dwell on your losses?

I couple of days ago I drove past a beautiful house that I lost through a divorce. I noticed how tempting it was to go into that story of loss and wallow in it. But the great thing is that we have the choice to go down that track or to let go of such thoughts.

What are the great losses in your life? Are you willing to let go of those prisoners too? Or would you like to hold on to them?

Let go of failures

What are your stories of failures?

My own favorite one was when I planned a series of relationship workshops for couples on the back of my book “Learn to Love”. I spent a lot of money creating a campaign in New Zealand, Australia and England to publicize the tour of workshops. But it was a flop, because most couples felt unsafe about speaking about their relationship in front of others from their home town.

I could hang on to that story and retell it to myself over and over. Just like you maybe tell yourself about your failures.

The great new is that we can open those prison doors as well and let our failures go free!

Let go of limitations

Have a look at the section in your personal prison where you keep your limitations. What are they?

I noticed one of my prisoners yesterday. I had a first lesson in using a video camera and noticed how often I would say something like, “I’m not technical, you know.”

What about the limitations you hold captive? What are your stories of being handicapped?

Let go of hard luck

Have you had bad luck in your life? I’ve got a great story I could keep on telling myself. It’s how a rogue builder vanished with money I had paid him for building a house, and left the half-built structure degrading in the rain. Sob.

Do you also have a sob story? How about unlocking that cell and letting those stories go?

Please free all your prisoners!

Let’s have a conversation – which prisoners have you decided to free? Which ones are the hardest to let go?

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  1. rob says:

    Great post. It’s amazing though how resentment affirms identity. Like anger.
    There has to be a better way!

  2. Hi Rob!
    Yes – I agree. Resentment is very seductive and difficult to ditch.

  3. Mary,

    I like your analogy between freeing prisoners and letting go. Personally, I need to let go of failures.

    Roger – A Content Lifes last blog post..A Tale of Two Homes

  4. Kay says:

    Yep, hanging on to the loss that defines me is a good way to be stuck in the mud–this meditation helped me!

  5. Hi Mary,

    I think we are all prisoners of our past until we decide to just let it go. I used to blame myself for mistakes I had done in the past but I then realized that those mistakes were great teachers. No one is perfect, we all make mistakes and once I saw the mistakes for what they were, I was no longer a prisoner to my past.

    Great post!

    Nadia – Happy Lotuss last blog post..What’s Your Theme Song?

  6. Hi Mary — thanks for this post. I’ve been thinking about freeing myself from a similar angle recently, on a physical level — finding all the places where I may be holding onto tension in my body and relaxing them. When I do that I find that it can actually transform my worldview too.

  7. Excellent advice. Letting go of many of these things is something I work on each day. : )

  8. Hi Roger!
    Yes – failures are especially difficult to let go of. But it’s a relief to open that prison door!

  9. Hi Kay!
    I hope you can let your loss walk free!

  10. Hi Nadia!
    I like what you say: “I then realized that those mistakes were great teachers.”

    Mistakes have a bad rap – but they can be opportunities for change and growth. Let’s free them too!

  11. Hi Chris!
    That’s a very interesting angle that letting go of physical tension can change your worldview.

    I’m not surprised because I think that ll our personal prisoners also have an influence on our body. And on our health!

  12. Hi Karen!
    I find it disturbing when I notice that deep down I don’t WANT to let go of some of my prisoners.

  13. janice says:

    Thanks, Mary. Good luck with the video.
    Today I let go of a fair amount of paralysing perfectionism and had fun!

  14. Hi Janice!
    Yeah – paralyzing perfectionism – that’s a real fun killer. I’m glad you were able to let it go and have fun 🙂

  15. …in other words, forgive your past, learn, breathe, and forge ahead.

    Awesome Mary! 😉

  16. Hi Marc and Angel!
    ‘Forgive your past’ – yes, that’s the way to move forward. But sometimes it’s easier to forgive others than oneself, eh?

  17. Yes Mary!

    In the words of the socalled Dalai Llama of Porta-Loos ‘if someone’s got a problem with me, [mate] its their problem – not mine’!

  18. Tawni says:

    I really like the analogy of being stuck in these different stories as “keeping prisoners,” and appreciated the examples of different areas where we can let go. As Doen Sensei is always telling us, letting go of our stories gives us great freedom. Thanks for a great post.

  19. Hi Dan!
    Oh, I think it is my problem too. Even when I’m angry with someone, there is a quiet little voice that tells me that I wasn’t blameless in the interaction either.

  20. Hi Tawni!
    It’s quite strange how we keep our stories imprisoned, and they in turn imprison us.

    Let’s call a general amnesty 🙂

  21. That anger only exists in you. If you hang on to it, it can manifest in other ways – often ill health (colds, aches or worse). Prisons just contain a problem and concentrate it. Not healthy to have one inside you – I vote knock ’em down!

    Dan Morelles last blog post..NC Mallory Interview on

  22. Ken L says:

    Great post and advice, but my question is how do yo let these prisoners go?

  23. Kaushik says:

    Very nice words.

    We are afraid to let go, as you point out, because the past is a part of our identity, and also because we think we don’t know how to let go. The miraculous thing is that we all knew how to let go as children very naturally, and we can quickly re-learn this. Simply, allow the emotion or pain, make space for it, and ask yourself if you can let go. It’s that simple, and with just a little practice, it becomes instant and natural.

    Kaushiks last blog post..Awareness and Release –The Two-Step Dance of Awakening

  24. Hi Ken L!
    How to do it? That’s a good solid question.

    Let me give you an example: Yesterday I drove past a beautiful house that used to be mine before I lost it through divorce proceedings.

    As I drove past, I notice my thoughts starting to settle on the loss of this house, and all the ‘what if’s’ that are associated with losing it.

    At that moment I had a choice: do I go down that mind-road or not?

    I decided not to. It would only have led to bitterness and would have disturbed the treasured friendship with my ex-husband.

    So, I said to myself “I let go!” and consciously started thinking of something else. In other words, I opened the prison door!

  25. Hi Kaushik!

    I like what you say: “Simply, allow the emotion or pain, make space for it, and ask yourself if you can let go.”

    Yes, it’s important to allow the pain. Take, for example, my story about driving past the house I lost. At that moment, I felt a sting of regret. I felt it, and I honoured the feeling, without trying to deny it.

    But I didn’t allow my mind to weave stories around that sudden feeling of loss.

  26. Josh Gale says:

    Great post Mary. I work at Amnesty International so I felt like you were talking to me, especially because recently I’ve been trying to work through some old resentments. Very helpful, thank you.

  27. Hi Josh!
    How lovely to know that you work for Amnesty International. That’s great work!

    It’ll be great if you can now release your old resentments.
    Old resentments can be very sticky, can’t they?

  28. Hi Mary,

    Resentment is an incredibly important topic for personal growth.

    I’ve been in recovery from drugs and alcohol for 17 years. I’ve seen many people unable to recover because they could not let go of past resentments, regrets, and failures. They found it nearly impossible to live in the present moment.

    One of the best ways I’ve learned to get rid of resentment is to meditate on release and forgiveness – and then to pray that the person you resent is blessed in all that they do. If you can summon the strength to do that – they will no longer occupy your thoughts.

    Not an easy thing to learn or do – but very effective.

    Chad Prigmores last blog post..Just Finished Reading, “Way of the Peaceful Warrior”

  29. Hi Chad!
    Thanks for drawing attention to compassion as the key factor for releasing resentment!

  30. Julie M says:

    This article is spot on!! Resentment breeds internal chaos and physical and mental stress. Sometimes it can be hard to let go and free our prisoners, but yes it is healthy and liberating!

  31. Hi Julie!
    I love what you say: “Resentment breeds internal chaos.”

    Chaos is such a good word for what happens! I’ve noticed that even when I try and ride out resentment, saying to myself, “Oh, I can deal with this. It’s only a little thing,” – it’s a mistake!

    At the time I think I’m maintaining peace, but really, I’m fostering chaos inside because I’ve let go of integrity. In other words, how I feel inside and how I act outside is not congruent. For me that’s the beginning of chaos!

  32. Jared says:

    I released myself a few years ago. I released everything I believed in and thought I was living for. I forgave myself for all the mistakes I had made, as well as all those who I “felt” had wronged me. It wasn’t really a conscience act at the time, but as a result of a spiritual process or awakening so to speak.

    Once I learned compassion, forgiveness, and empathy for myself, I’m better equipped to forgive others.

    Jareds last blog post..Maintaining a positive attitude and rechanneling anger through perspective and practice

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