Saturday, June 13, 2015

Righting Some Wrongs

A few weeks ago, I started to write a post about the things we do in childhood and our young adult life that we regret as we become wiser. Strange how these childish things stick with us, isn't it? Those little mistakes we made make us wonder, do the people we hurt remember us? Does it sting, still?

I started thinking about all the kids I hurt growing up and as I thought about these people, I started looking them up on Facebook.  I was shocked to learn that one of my highschool friends had died the night before in horrific car accident. He was with his wife, traveling home from the baptism of his youngest grandchild; a tragedy. It was a sombering moment, to say the least.

Rather than write a tongue-in-cheek post about all the silly things I did growing up, I've chosen another course. We cannot undo our past. I cannot go back and un-hurt the people I've hurt. There are avenues of growth, however.

In some cases, we can right the wrongs of our past. If the people we've hurt are still living, we can seek them out and genuinely apologize. The "wrongs" are often not the things we did, but what we did or did not do directly afterward. Perhaps we did not show remorse, we didn't apologize, we didn't try to make up for our actions. The odd and awkward part of this, is sometimes people don't remember what we did and aren't holding it against us. You have to make a judgement call as to whether tracking down someone you haven't seen since 2nd grade is the most helpful thing to do.

Perhaps equally valuable, if not equally important, is to handle our own thoughts about our past mistakes. For example there is a lot of difference in motive, intention, and blame about my role in someone else cutting their own hair in 2nd grade versus my unkind and callous handling of a break up when I was 17.

We learn from our past when we are willing to look honestly at it and without judgement;  there are treasures there. When I look at that break-up, I remember a couple of life-shock moments that were the catalyst to that event. Those moments point to one thing: I did not believe I was worthy of love. If I had a chance to tell that old flame anything today, I would of course apologize for my appalling behavior but I would also thank him. I would thank him for being the deliverer of the wake-up call that there was, in me, someone loveable and desirable. It was important to hear it even though, at the time, I fended it off.

Sometimes the mistakes we made in our past are simply there to remind us we are human and to teach us how to forgive ourselves.Sure it would be great if everyone we wronged forgave us, but what really matters is that grace has been acting in our lives all along  and now we must forgive ourselves.

Your past, my past, can only hold us back if we let it. We can and should ask forgiveness if appropriate (or even make restitution) but in every case, we can only grow if we look, learn, and let go. Right your wrongs to straighten your path forward but don't forget to look in the mirror while you do it. You will be the richer for it.

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