As I watch the memorial celebrations for the life of Nelson Mandela, and read the many stories about his life, I am struck again and again by the gifts of forgiveness and reconciliation that he offered everyone his life touched. I ask myself – what can we do to remember this shining example in our world?

Here is an exercise that I provide in the home study programme, Educating Heart & Soul. Many people find this very difficult and yet are always amazed at the positive outcomes it provides. I invite you to try it this weekend.

Most of us have experienced situations where we have ‘lost touch’ with someone in our lives. We used to be friends or acquaintances, perhaps even lovers, but we haven’t spoken for many months or years. This may be because of an incident that took place in which we were hurt, or it may simply be that we ‘drifted apart’.

This exercise is very simple. Write a letter or buy a beautiful card and write a short note to the person… or if you are feeling very brave pick up the telephone one day and call that person. Simply saying: ‘I know we haven’t spoken for a long time and I am not writing/calling to try to reconcile or put things back the way they used to be, but I wanted you to know that when we were friends, I enjoyed your company, respected your views and had some wonderful times. I will always remember that.’ … and if you would like to become friends again you can add ‘I’m sorry that we lost touch’ (which gives them an opening to make contact.)

Many people react to a call or letter like this in a very positive way. Often people say things like; ‘I’ve been thinking the very same thing’ ‘That’s very brave of you’ ‘It was just as much my fault and I’m so glad you called’ ‘We parted on such bad terms that I didn’t think you would ever want to speak to me again’ ‘I remember those good times too’

Even if this doesn’t immediately lead to a reconciliation, perhaps to meet up soon or talk again, you have broken the ice that was preventing either person from considering the other. And when the reaction is negative and the other person is angry or dismissive of your call, do not be upset. You have shown YOUR compassion and opened the door for a future conversation should they ever change their attitude.

Relationships are not always forever and we do sometimes have to learn to let go and cut ties. You may feel that it is not appropriate to open the channels of reconciliation as such but by sending a note in kindness and love you are offering closure and healing to wounds that may hold bitterness. Both parties, if they wish, can move on and heal.

This is an incredibly powerful exercise for healing your own doubts and fears about the past, as well as creating opportunities for forgiveness.