How to Forgive and Live with a Wide-Open Heart

heart large painting on wooden wall

Nothing stands to transform us, our relationships, and our world, more than a commitment to live our lives from love. The bigger the better. – Scott Stabile

Picture this:

– His parents were murdered when he was fourteen
– His brother died of a heroin overdose
– 13 years of his life was under the influence of a cult

I don’t know, but had that been the story my life, I could have easily wind down “The Path to Awfulness.” I’d have more than enough valid excuses to harbor hatred and resentment. Scott could, but he didn’t. He chose not to. He made a different choice. He took a different path. And in Big Love, he shows us we can too.

What stands out for me, as Scott addresses our common challenges in life throughout the book, is his authenticity. He reveals his own human flaws, lets us in what was going inside his head (BIG LAUGH!), and makes us realize how we could show up differently with a wide-open heart.

In my book, a line from the 10th Universal Law of Awesomeness (Be-YOU-TY-ful) says “life itself is the teacher.” And Scott’s life is an awesome teaching we can all learn from. He reminds us how beautiful it is to be human.

Thank you, Scott, for restoring not only faith, but also love in humanity – BIG LOVE!


Healing isn’t possible within denial and fear. It’s only possible within openness and honesty, within our willingness to look at the truth of our reality, past and present, and to accept it for what it is without letting it define who we are right now. We are not our struggles, or our heartbreak. We are not the actions we’ve taken, or the assaults we’ve endured. Yes, our experiences influence how we grow and who we grow into.

But ultimately, who we are is who we decide to be, because of and despite everything we’ve been through. Our power lives in choice. We can choose to face our pain without judgment, without letting it shut us down to our growth. If we decide to. And we can commit to loving ourselves through it all. As much as possible, no matter what. Love — self-love — transforms. This is how we create a safe place inside ourselves, to heal.

For many years, after the tragic killing incident, Scott was living in denial in the hopes of burying his pain.

Did it make the pain go away? No, it only got hidden. Hidden, but present. Buried, but still there.

It took a breakdown before he finally opened up.

What he learned was that healing requires a direct and honest confrontation with pain. He says we can’t honestly address what we can’t honestly face. And at the core of our denial is fear. Fear of facing the truth. Fear that we can’t survive it. Fear that it might destroy us.

But Scott, having gone through it, affirms that it won’t; that we can survive it.

When pain or any emotion that scares us comes up, allow it. Don’t bury it. Because, as Scott tells us, they let go of us when we stop holding on to them.

how to forgive yourselfShame on Lies

I believe in being the most authentic version of myself, however that ends up looking and sounding. I believe in truth.

Shame, however, lives in lies. It sees beauty in standards set by magazines and movie stars and tells us we’re disgusting and need to hide ourselves when we don’t meet those standards (which is always). You are ugly, it taunts. Shame sees success as money and power and toys, and makes us feel little and worthless when we don’t have enough of these things. You are a failure, it seethes. Shame sees our most painful experiences — betrayal, heartbreak, abuse — as reasons to blame ourselves for being hurt and as the strongest examples of how utterly flawed we are. You are broken, it whispers.

The truth is, we have nothing to be ashamed of, none of us. No matter how we look, or who we love, or what we’ve done. We’ve all made mistakes, we’ve all done wrong, and we all have reasons to ask for forgiveness. But not from a place of shame.

Shame only suffocates any possible growth, any lessons we can learn from our circumstances and our actions. It doesn’t allow us to acknowledge our truth.

Scott is gay, and he says that dealing with the shame around his sexuality puts all his other shames… to shame. (Laughter is a great antidote to shame)

Shame is based on the fundamental error that we humans have learned – guilt. It tells us, “There is something wrong with you.” That’s what Scott thought of himself being gay. That’s what I thought when I was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. That’s what you thought of the way you think less of who you are – based on the standards of what is “right” and what Vishen calls the brules (bullshit rules) of society.

The thing with shame is it attacks our being. Yes, we are flawed. We make mistakes all the time. But just because we’ve done something wrong doesn’t make us a “wrong” person. There are wrong doings, but there are no wrong beings.

That is the truth we need to acknowledge. This acknowledgment is the first step in forgiveness, our path to love.

Love, in essence, is the realization that there is really nothing to forgive because there is nothing wrong with you.

Addicted by Choice

There is no greater than or less than where people are concerned. We’re all equal, all worthy of the same love. And aren’t we all addicts to some degree? Don’t we all make unhealthy choices, more often than we’d like, with the sole purpose of escaping discomfort and pain?

All these escapes reflect nothing more than some missing piece of happiness and connection in our lives, a deeper peace of mind that so often isn’t there.

Whatever it is we’re running from doesn’t go anywhere. It may not chase us every second, but it won’t disappear, either.

Rather than turn to alcohol, drugs, gambling, or food when we feel sad or lonely, what if we just allowed ourselves to feel sad and lonely? Like human beings feel sometimes.

In dealing with addiction, Scott writes, “Without choice, sobriety is impossible.

Sobriety – a word that represents awakening from our unconsciousness.

What are we unconscious of? The choices we make.

Every moment, we make a choice. By not choosing, we already made a choice. We choose by default, by our human conditioning, by fear.

Love, our true nature, is the choice we are seeking. Jeff Foster, in his book The Deepest Acceptance, says that this seeking and the release from it is our only addiction. The problem is we are seeking in all the wrong places – in objects and other people.

Addiction is nothing more than a choice made repeatedly, unconsciously.

The good news is we can always make a different choice. Therein lies our power. Therein lies the end to all addiction.

how to forgive yourself

Selfish Self-care

People everywhere are trying to take better care of themselves. This is great. Important. Necessary. No one will be able to take care of you better than you’re able to take care of you, if you choose to do it. Also, no one stands to benefit more from your self-care than you.

Yes, self-care is selfish. Don’t let that stop you. The beauty of selfish self-care is that by taking care of ourselves, we’re serving not only ourselves but also everyone who comes in contact with us.

An insight that keeps recurring: Nothing is more important than your well-being.

In fact, if we were to sum up all there is to learn, it would be “self-love.”


Vishen argues in his book CodEx that the heart is also “selfish” because it keeps all the good blood for itself then distributes the rest to other organs. It’s a must for the heart to take care of itself first, or else it would die. And if it dies, everything else dies.

Scott is reminding us the same thing: “Love is our most important business, and any love we give ourselves is love that serves us all.

Lovely Success

Love invites me to see success differently, as the fullest embodiment of kindness and compassion I’m capable of expressing. When I’m loving, I’m successful. When I’m forgiving, I’m successful, too. I’ve come to view success through a lens of humanity, and the degree to which I’m successful directly aligns with the degree to which I love myself and my fellow human beings.

I hope one day to wholly embody what I understand to be true — that neither money nor power nor popularity ultimately has anything to do with a life of meaning or joy. Love is where I find my deepest meaning and my greatest joy. Love is what drives me to express myself the most authentically, and to connect with others the most openly, more than money, power, and popularity ever could.

I’ll let you in on Scott’s little dark secret: He wrote the script for the biggest children film flop of all time. It was a “Big Fail”!

But here’s what happened after the film. He transformed his Facebook fan page and used it as a platform to spread love, big time!

Long story short, hundreds and thousands came flocking to his page, enough to call the attention of a publisher for what is now Big Love.

That’s what “failures” can lead us to – falling in love. They teach us about the real essence of success – a life of meaning and joy, a life of love. And what love does is it transforms all our failures into one big success.

Empathy, not Sympathy

There’s a huge difference between sympathy and empathy, between “I’m sorry” and “I’ve been there.” It’s not that sympathy is bad. It’s just that empathy invites a connection that sympathy simply can’t. Sympathy says, “I feel sorry for you,” while empathy declares, “I am you.” Sympathy encourages us to find compassion, from a distance, for another’s misfortune. Empathy demands that we revisit our own pain in order to relate to someone else’s. Sympathy requires our kindness. Empathy requires our vulnerability.

Scott specifies that we, human beings, don’t just long for connection; we long for empathetic connection.

What are you currently struggling with in your life? How would it feel talking about it with somebody? And how would it feel talking about it with somebody who had been through what you’re going through?

Feel the difference? Scott says it’s comforting to be heard, yet it’s empowering to be understood.

The greatest affliction that humanity has is our belief in separation. Sympathy or pity, though well-intentioned, reinforces that belief. Empathy or compassion, on the other hand, rekindles human connection that fosters healing.

how to forgive someone

Flaws for Flowers

We can hide ourselves because of our perceived flaws. Or we can embrace the flaws. We can choose to see the ways in which our cracks add beauty to the world around us and the ways in which they enhance our own lives. We can choose to recognize that whatever makes us who we are is something to celebrate, not suppress. Without needing them to define us, we can begin to let our cracks give us a bit more definition.

Then, like the flowers we’re bound to inspire, we can finally, fully bloom.

In one of my fave chapters, Scott comically narrates the fairytale-like story of the two pots: the pink pot and the purple pot that hang on opposite ends of a bamboo pole. Nyoman carries them every day to gather water from the mountains for drinking, cooking, and bathing.

But one day, upon returning home, Nyoman noticed that the purple pot was only half full of water because it was cracked. The following day, the cracked pot returned half full again. And again and again, that went on for more than a year.

What purple pot didn’t know was that Nyoman planted seeds on its pathway from the moment she found out that water was seeping out its crack. Every day, the purple pot wasn’t aware that it was watering them. As time passes, the seeds grew into different colorful varieties of flowers. It was because of purple pot’s crack that made Nyoman’s world beautiful.

Like the purple pot, we all have cracks. And Scott encourages us to see them not as a flaw, but rather as a gift because our cracks can lead others to their flowers too. He asks how our perceived flaws might actually be adding beauty to the world.

In her book, The Choice for Love, Barbara puts it aptly: “You don’t have to be a perfect container to contain the perfect love.

Fear Less

Change will always be scary. Fearlessness will always be a myth. We can be afraid and still make courageous choices. Courage doesn’t even exist without an element of fear. It’s action with fear that makes a choice brave.

Find whatever response to your fear works best for you, as long as it keeps you moving forward, making the courageous choices you know you need to make for yourself and for your life.

This is what’s at the core of Big Love: fear less, not fearless. Just as there’s no perfect person, there’s not one fearless human being. Fear is an aspect of the human experience. It serves its purpose. Courage wouldn’t make any sense without fear.

Fear also keeps us safe and protected, which is a good thing for staying out of real danger. The only problem is fear sees everything as scary. It doesn’t matter whether you’re seeing a cockroach or seeing opportunities to realize your dreams. Cockroaches and dreams appear the same to fear – danger.

So the choice is up to us to see differently. See fear and acknowledge it for what it is. See it as a friend, rather as an enemy. Instead of denying it, embrace it.

Write a letter to it, just like Elizabeth Gilbert did in her book Big Magic:

letter to fear elizabeth gilbert

Funny, but when I get scared of doing something I really wanted to do, I ask myself: “Will I die if I do it?”

Then I listen to what fear has to say to me. Usually, it quiets down its own voice and together we learn to listen to love and take action.

Will you die if you follow your dreams?

Sing Your Song, Dance to Your Music

There’s no home for an ego in freedom.

Just as there’s no freedom in the house of the ego.

We constantly correct ourselves to fit some model of what we think is right or appropriate or cool or best, even when we’re by ourselves, with no one around to judge us, with no reason in the world not to be 100 percent free. Even then, we repress our truth. Here’s the thing: the rightest, coolest, and bestest we can be happens when we’re being absolutely ourselves.

We can choose to un-become everything we’ve been told to be — or not to be — so that we can become everything we already are.

Authenticity = Freedom = BIG LOVE

The truer we are to ourselves, the freer we become, the bigger our capacity for love.

We often think authenticity is hard. But is it really? Scott says it should be the easiest thing in the world – to be ourselves and to love the truest expression of who we are.

This begs the question, how can we love ourselves if we are not willing to be ourselves? We struggle with self-love because we struggle with the “self” part.

Imagine how much effort we put in trying to be someone else other than who we are? It is effortless to be just who we truly are.

It’s really easy being ourselves. That’s when we are at our happiest. Happiness is easy when we are true to ourselves.

Love is easy when we are being ourselves because that is who and what we are – love.

how to forgive yourself

Big Word

We are all human. When we understand that, and when we’re willing to see ourselves in others, and others in ourselves — through the lens of love — we walk the paths of empathy and compassion, both of which lead to a greater possibility for forgiveness.

When we recognize who we truly are – Love, we also recognize what we need to do – Forgiveness. Subject-verb agreement, eh?

When love is our being, forgiveness becomes our doing.

Scott says love compels us to forgive, no matter what. No conditions, no excuses, no exceptions.

Does it mean Scott condone the killing of his parents? Of course not. But he understands that forgiveness has nothing to do with the man’s actions. He recognizes the killing from the “killer,” the doing from the being. He forgives the man for he didn’t know his doing. He didn’t know he was in pain and suffering, and killing became his way out. (A painful price we pay for repressing ourselves)

Scott found that empathy and compassion are direct paths to forgiveness. He put himself in the shoes of the man who killed his parents and realized the man was suffering just as he was, just like any human being. It doesn’t justify the killing, it justifies the forgiveness. And forgiveness did find Scott.

Forgiveness is our biggest teacher in learning love. It teaches us that what we can’t forgive in others are parts of us that we haven’t forgiven yet. They are the wounded parts of ourselves that need healing to make us whole.

May it find and lead us to the BIG LOVE we are all part of.

the path to awesomeness starter kit

Big Love: The Power of Living with a Wide-Open Heart


PS: Thank you for taking the time to read. Tell me, what insight most resonated with you?

Let me know by leaving a comment below.
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SCOTT STABILE has amassed a sizable Facebook following with his inspirational and provocative quotes, essays, and live videos. A regular contributor to the Huffington Post, Scott runs daylong empowerment workshops nationally and internationally. He lives in his home state of Michigan with his partner. Learn more about how Scott spreads BIG LOVE at


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