Damn – the past decided to come knocking at my door last week and sadly, it slammed into my world and left me bruised and broken on the floor.
I didn’t want to let the past in. On the contrary, I tried to ignore it and push it back to where it belongs. But – the past bullied its way back into my personal space anyways. It didn’t seem to care that I didn’t want to see it, feel it, touch it or smell it.
The past had no empathy for the hard work I had done to learn from it and grow. And it certainly did not care that I had spent years practicing the art of self-forgiveness for my mistakes. Nope – the past was looking for me and regardless of how much time had slipped by, it still wanted a piece of my soul.
Like so many people – I know the struggle of letting go and self-forgiveness. Unfortunately, mistakes of the past have trapped me in a web of regret too many times to count. The ugliness of shame followed me everywhere and there was often no place to hide.
Yet – I kept putting one foot in front of the other. I refused to wave a white flag surrendering to my past on the battlefields of life. Yes I lost many battles over the years but I did not give up. I fought back and I knew that I was a good person regardless of the past.
The demons of the past would rear their ugly heads once in a while but I had learned to manage them most of the time. Yet last week turned my world upside down. I was caught off guard and quite honestly, I was simply not prepared.
Without warning – the endless hours I had worked to forgive myself for a million mistakes disappeared. It was as if I had learned nothing over the years and in an instant I once again felt like the worst person in the world.
The tears came and the sting of shame and regret left its mark on me like the burn of a hot iron branded into human flesh. My heart hurt and once again I was left wondering how I could have made so many mistakes. Perhaps I was a bad person.
Thanks a lot past. I really appreciated you showing up like that flexing your muscles and reminding me of how powerful you can be. Why can’t you just leave me alone?
Last week was tough and I felt awful. Luckily, I have learned a lot over the years and I know that the past does not define who I am today. Tears were shed, I allowed myself to grieve for a day or two, reached out to friends who care and picked myself up off of the floor. I forgave myself and remembered that I can begin again.
So how about you? Does your past show up from time to time and knock you down? Have you struggled to forgive yourself and let go? Do the demons of the past still try to control you and hold great power over you?
If so – I feel you and I can empathize in a very big way with your pain. It sucks and it is not a fun place to be.
While the struggle is real and the practice of self-forgiveness is hard I am here to tell you that it is possible and you can lighten your load. There are things that you can do to reclaim your life and find your way back to a peaceful heart and joy. Even when the past comes knocking uninvited at your door.
I do not have all of the answers but I have fought on the battlefields of forgiveness. Here are a few things I have learned along the way:
- The past does not define you. Period. In truth, the past can be your friend and if allowed, can serve as a powerful reminder of who you no longer want to be. Learn from your past mistakes and let the past guide you towards a better life and living true to the person you so badly want to be.
- All human beings make mistakes. You are human and making mistakes is part of the human experience. Mistakes hold great wisdom. Remember – you are not the sum of your mistakes but own them. There is wisdom in the wounds and those wounds hold great lessons that can help you to learn and grow.
- Don’t allow the past to hold you prisoner. Sadly, people give the past far too much power and if allowed, the past will keep you trapped in a place you no longer want to be. Far too many of us waste so much time focusing on the past instead of being present in the moment. You are more powerful than your past. Reclaim your power and let it go.
- You cannot change the past nor do you have control over what happened yesterday. Focus your energy on today and try to live true to who you want to be today versus who you were yesterday. Stop looking in the rearview mirror. You will never reach your destination if you are constantly looking behind you. Worry about the things you have control over and leave the rest behind.
- We have the power of choice. There are things in life that happen that are completely out of our control. However – most of what happens in a given day comes down to one very important thing and that is personal choice. You get to choose. Remember that one bad choice can lead to ruining a life. Choose well moving forward.
- Go to bed each and every night knowing you did the right thing. That is where you will find peace.
- Good people do bad things. Debbie Ford wrote a great book called “Why Good People Do Bad Things. How To Stop Being Your Own Worst Enemy” and it is a book that truly made a difference in my life. It is when we can better understand the why behind some of our behaviors and recognize that while we may have done some bad things it does not mean we are bad people.
- Love all of who you are. Human beings are complicated and in short, life is rarely simple. Stop beating yourself up and learn to love the many wonderful things that make you who you are. Recognize that even the tough stuff mistakes and all help to mold the person that you are today. I have a lot of regrets but I also know that some of the best parts of who I am today are because of some of my past mistakes.
- Be humble and kind. I am far from perfect and God knows I have made mistakes but I always try to be humble in my life today and I try to be kind. This is so important and it is so easy to make a difference in the lives of others. The smallest acts of kindness can change lives and despite the mistakes of the past, being kind can and will change yours.
- You cannot control what other people think about you but you can control what you think about yourself. There will always be people who judge you or for whatever reason don’t like you. And – there may be people who cannot forgive you. While that is difficult to accept you cannot waste your time and energy worrying about what others think. Don’t throw stones and remember that it is impossible to completely know what another person has been through if you have not first walked in their shoes. Most people who judge you have never walked in your shoes. YOU HAVE. Work on thinking positive and focus on all of the good things you have done. You matter and you deserve to be loved.
- Anyone can change regardless of the past. I have always believed that anyone can take steps to change their life, break unhealthy patterns and become the person they want to be. Don’t let the past dictate who you are today. If there are things you need and want to change – do it and don’t look back. Understand the why behind your behaviors and don’t be afraid to ask for help. You can change. Believe that you can.
- Forgive yourself. This is a tough one. I struggle with this one every day. Glennon Doyle says it perfect: “My main spiritual practice is self-forgiveness. I forgive myself relentlessly. You must try it. It’s how to live light.” This is my reality. I try to forgive myself relentlessly and some days I fail. But I wake up each day and begin again. Tomorrow is a new day my friends. Keep working on forgiving yourself. That is where you will discover how to live life in peace and leave the past where it belongs.
I am not going to pretend that forgiving ourselves is easy. In fact, self-forgiveness is really hard. It is a process and even when we think we have mastered it something will trigger those gremlins in our minds and the past and all of the shame that comes with it will come rushing back with a vengeance.
It is not a matter of if the past will come knocking but when and more importantly is the question of what you will do when it does. Don’t let it derail you. You are more powerful than you think and while it can rip open old wounds in seconds, the past does not have to win. Keep learning, growing and becoming a master of your heart. You are in control and you get to choose who you want to be and how you are going to live your life today and tomorrow and the next day.
My heart ached last week and I must admit that the past managed to knock me down – but not for long. I refused to stay down and I found the strength and courage to stand back up and I will continue to stand back up every time. You can too.
I will leave you with this and my hope is that you will remember that you are a good person that deserves happiness, forgiveness and to be loved.
finish each day and be done with it. you have done what you could. some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. tomorrow is a new day. you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense. – emerson