The “past.” It always seems to never go away, does it? As hard as we try to forget certain events in our life, we’re never able to shake them. Nor should we even try. They’re an inevitable part of the make-up of who we are today. Good or bad, they’re with us forever. Acceptance of that truth is a key component to our emotional well-being.
Last night I had a dream, or rather a nightmare of events that occurred about ten years ago. That was a time of self-indulgence, denial, anger, and chaos. Like most of us, I immediately woke up, startled by how vivid the nightmare was, secretly hoping when I went back to sleep, it wouldn’t continue. But it did. So I woke again. Same thing. “Oh well,” I said to myself, “Let’s see how this plays out.”
By the time it was over, I’d literally re-lived a series of events in my life that was so vivid, it left me in a state of shock. It was a time when I hurt many people with my actions, actions that left me with a huge amount of guilt, shame, and anger towards myself and others. Fortunately, the dream ended with forgiveness and redemption. I had found the courage to admit my mistakes, made amends the best I could, and moved on in life with courage and faith. Courage to “own up” and face the bitter truth of the past, and faith that, in forgiveness, I had found a new way of living and thinking that continues to this day.
So when you look at your life and your past, if you’re still carrying around the burdens of yesterday, if you’ve hurt someone or let somebody down with your actions or words, there’s a way out. The first step is always the hardest. It’s looking in the mirror when you’re alone, gaze deeply into your own eyes where your soul resides and asking yourself basic questions. “Am I willing to step forward and admit I was wrong? Am I willing to ask for forgiveness, first from God, then for myself, and then from others?”
That may sound easy, and it probably is once you’ve made the decision. But here’s the rub. Be prepared for a shock. The people whom you thought would be the most likely to forgive, will instead be the least likely, including those closest to you. And the ones you figured wouldn’t, will be the easiest. And that’s what makes “moving forward” difficult for many of us. We can’t accept that others won’t “accept” our amends. What happens is we stay stuck. What then?
If this is you, or you know someone in a similar situation, here’s the answer. You’ve done your job. There’s only one choice. Keep moving and don’t look back, no regrets, no shame, no blame. When you’ve asked God for forgiveness, forgiven yourself, and made a 100% honest effort to make amends to others, regardless of whether they accept them or not, you’ve fulfilled your obligation. At that point, you simply move on with life. But sometimes, those that you care for the most, the ones that couldn’t forgive, won’t be coming with you. That’s hard. And that’s their issue, not yours. As time moves on, you’ll find that the old axiom is very true; “Time heals all wounds.” In the end, you’ll be better off, a happier person, emotionally balanced, and the people whom you once hurt will look up to you in awe and admiration. Most of all, you’ll realize that your greatest strengths and assets in life will be the result of the worst tragedies, ones that you can use today to make your life better and those around you.
Finally, when it’s all said and done, you’ll feel like going back, back to where it all started, a place called “home”, where your loved ones will be there waiting to greet you with open arms.