By Krystal Kuehn, MA, LPC, LLP, NCC
The day the child realizes that all adults are imperfect
he becomes an adolescent; the day he forgives them,
he becomes an adult; the day he forgives himself he becomes wise. ~Alden Nowlan
Are regrets, bad memories, or losses keeping you from enjoying each new day? Is the past keeping you from moving into the future with hope and anticipation?
I recently heard a man say that it was not until he made peace with his past that he truly began to live. It changed his life so drastically that everyone noticed there was something different about him. It was not until 20 years after losing his father that he began to grieve the loss for the first time. He finally allowed himself to face his past with all the anger and pain. There was so much that he missed out on. There were lost opportunities and things that would never be, so many regrets, poor choices, and bad experiences that would affect the rest of his life.
This man went through a process of acceptance and forgiveness. He felt the pain. He felt the anger. He mourned what was and could have been. And then, he released it. He made peace with his past, and he was ready to move on with his life. Suddenly, new opportunities before him became exciting. He began to fully appreciate what he had, the people in his life, and what he had become. He began to hope for a better and brighter future. He was ready to give more of himself to others. And he began to enjoy his life more and more.
For the first time since he could remember, he felt free—free of burdens from the past, free of unresolved pain, free of bitterness and self-pity. He was free indeed! He was free to enjoy his life, his family, and all that he had like never before. The past would no longer steal his joy and hope. It could not hold him back, and it was not going to keep him down any longer.
Is your past keeping you from fully enjoying your life? Sometimes we do not stop and think about it. Just like the man described above, we might have regrets, unresolved pain, sorrow, anger, or unforgiveness. These things keep us bound to the past. The past does not have to negatively influence our future. We can release it as we face it, deal with the emotions, come to accept what was and now is, and forgive our past.
Making peace with our past will lead us to experience healing, wholeness, and freedom to live our life with true joy. Every day is a new day to appreciate and enjoy. We do not have to allow our past to keep us from being truly happy today. Choose to be free and take the necessary steps to be free now. (We might want to have a professional counselor help us go through this process.)
Following are questions to reflect on and steps to take in making peace with our past:
1. Face your past. What are your regrets? What caused or still causes you pain? What are your losses? Have you grieved them?
2. Face your feelings. Does your past make you angry, sad, feel bad about yourself, bitter, damaged, cheated?
3. Forgive your past. Do you have any bitterness, hatred, or unforgiveness towards anyone (including yourself)? Why are you holding on to it? What would it take for you to release it and free yourself from its control in your life?
4. Accept your past. When we cannot change something, the healthiest thing we can do is accept it. Can you accept your past? What have you learned from it? How can it change you for the better?
5. Make peace with your past and be free. When your past no longer controls your life—your peace, your hope, attitude, relationships, ability to love others, give and share of yourself, dream, believe, and trust once again, then you are free!
It is my hope that this has helped you in making peace with your past, and in looking forward to better days ahead!
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.