A wise woman once told me that the past was good for two things: to learn from and to enjoy.
In general, I don't believe we should spend too much time wandering around in the past. Unless you've done your clean-up work on it, the past can be a very dangerous neighborhood. We ought not go there unescorted.
Guilt, shame, regret, and sorrow are all indicators that we have unfinished business that we need to address. The most important thing that I hope you realize is that your pain is a gift. It is telling you that you have missed something important.
When thinking of our past, we want to transform more of our memories from "learn from" to "enjoy." And that is easier to do than you might think.
To separate and neutralize the pain from your past, you simply go back to where you (or others) "dropped a stitch," see what spiritual lessons you missed, make that correction, and MOVE ON.
Do you feel guilty about something? Okay, let's fix that. Think about what you think you did wrong and consider this: What could you have done differently? Great. Now resolve to try that better approach the next time. And, if you've wronged someone, please make amends.
If you can't think of anything that you would or could have done differently, then I have to ask you why you refuse to let go of that situation. When you choose to feel guilty about things over which you had no control, you are acting the martyr.
Please stop that now. No one likes it and it doesn't serve either you or them. Let's see if we can't find a better way to get attention. Better yet, let's see if we can't skip that "attention needing part" and simply put our attention where it is better used -- on loving our present lives and helping others.
Do you feel ashamed of something? Perfect. The way to heal shame is to bring it into the Light of Truth. Shame is a smarmy insidious feeling, it can only thrive in the dank hidden places of your heart. Since you are as sick as your secrets, the way you heal shame is to tell on yourself.
Meet with your most trusted (and reasonably healthy girlfriend) and say this: "I feel ashamed about . . . ." You don't need her to absolve you of anything, though I imagine she'll give you a fresh perspective that you are sorely lacking. All you really need is to be rid of the secret.
To me, shame is a particularly horrible and destructive feeling. While Guilt says 'I've DONE something bad,' Shame says, 'I AM something bad.' Very few people are, by the way. Bad, I mean.
Most of us just aren't that important (and yes, if you are wallowing in shame it's likely that you are getting some feeling of importance by being the "best at being the worst" thus and such you know.)
Stop it now, please!
Do you regret something? Awesome! Remember, the past is good for two things: to learn from and to enjoy. What you learn from your regrets is to be a better risk-taker. Think about your present situation. Pick something that you know you need and want to try but fear just a little bit. Now, GO DO THAT THING.
Go ahead. I'll wait.
Um, I sort of meant NOW, love.
Regret is LITERALLY a waste of time. That means that to the EXACT extent that you allow yourself the luxury of regret -- to just that extent -- you SQUANDER your Precious Present.
Do you feel sorrow about something? Well, then, my love, you have learned to love rightly! Sorrow is the bill that comes due when love changes. Do not feel surprised by sorrow, then. Sooner or later, one of us is going to the other one's funeral. Why does this surprise you?
The antidote for sorrow is -- you guessed it -- to live more fully today. Love more fully TODAY. Make your life an unbroken stream of thoughts, words, and deeds that are your personal expression of love. And service.
If you are held back by your unhealed feelings of your past, do something about it. And remember: Your beautiful past is good for two things -- to learn from and to enjoy.
Enjoy your memories. Clean up your mistakes. And then, as you go through the Beautiful Present, consciously create THIS DAY as a gift of love and service to all you meet.
Note: For more about Jennifer Boykin Click Here.
Photo: Flickr, Samuel Sharpe