By Scott Westerman
Listen to an audio version of this message.
“Make peace with your past, so it doesn’t screw up your present.” ~Regina Brett
How many times has this happened to you? You hear a certain song, stumble across an old photograph, and painful memories come rushing back to the front of your mind. All of us tend to hang onto mistakes we’ve made, things that might have been, relationships that no longer add value.
And it’s unproductive.
“Incredible change happens in your life,” Writes Steve Maraboli, “when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don’t.” And the only thing we can control is who we are right now.
Scientific research tells us that our bodies are in a constant state of reinvention. The cells inside our biological water balloon replace themselves at a rate of about 10% per year. We are continually discarding pieces of ourselves that are no longer useful. The person we are today is literally different than the person we were yesterday.
So why hold on to relationships, replay our mistakes, and other “things” that don’t serve a positive purpose? In fact, these attachments can actually block our path to a more happy existence.
Hate is one of the emotions that we love to hang onto. And it can be a particularly destructive force. C. JoyBell says that hate only deepens your attachment to things you would like to forget. “Everything and everyone that you hate is engraved upon your heart; if you want to let go of something, if you want to forget, you cannot hate.”
And here’s some additional advice from Deborah Reber, writing in Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul. “Letting go doesn’t mean that you don’t care about someone anymore. It’s just realizing that the only person you really have control over is yourself.”
Much of what causes our suffering is connected to our concern about how others feel about us, how we have have been hurt, how we may have hurt others. These can be our most deeply ingrained injuries.
“Until you heal the wounds of your past,” writes Iyanla Vanzant in Yesterday, I Cried, “you will continue to bleed. You can bandage the bleeding with food, with alcohol, with drugs, with work, with cigarettes, with sex, but eventually, it will all ooze through and stain your life. You must find the strength to open the wounds, stick your hands inside, pull out the core of the pain that is holding you in your past, the memories, and make peace with them.”
That isn’t easy, or we all would have done it. It’s worth the work. And you don’t have to do it alone. Talking with trusted friends can get you started. But if you want to go to the next level, find the courage to seek professional help. We hire personal trainers to make us stronger. Tutors help our kids get smarter. Our family docs help mitigate the effects of disease. Why not find the best possible tools to heal your soul?
Banish the phrases, “I should have” and “I wish I hadn’t” from your vocabulary. And consider the notion that what you learned from your past may well be a gift that can lead to a better future. Gratitude can be a powerful healer.
Every moment, we have a choice. We can let the past dominate our present. Or we can apply what we’ve learned to “the now”. That’s called “wisdom”. And wisdom can open the door to personal growth, peace, love and freedom.
As the old saying goes, “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional”. Letting go of your past empowers you to focus on the only thing you can truly control. The present.