How to let go of the past and forgive yourself. “In the process of letting go you will lose many things from the past, but you will find yourself.” ~ Deepak Chopra
There is no life without emotional scars; no one escapes flawless; no one can claim perfection without committing mockery upon himself. Jesus, the great example of humility for mankind, said, “Let him who hast not sinned cast the stone”
We have all made mistakes in our lives. We are all scared. In my life there have always been lots of physical scars. But as I grew older and wiser, I saw in people; sometimes in myself; signs of inner distress. So much sufferings, hurt feelings, confusion, guilt. So many people are holding grudges, submerged with bitterness, feeling inferior and worthless. I thought of these as scars, as emotional scares. But these emotional scares, I came to see, were so much deeper than physical scares, much more painful. We cannot avoid the scares; there is no escape from mistakes, quarrels, and misunderstandings to which human beings are prey. But we can treat them from a mature point of view. There is a clue in Bible, “when I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away my childish things”. We cannot adopt a child’s approach and ask for magic that will make all our troubles and grievances disappear. We must handle them maturely. “I define emotional maturity as the ability to make good, positive, healthy choices during the challenges of life” Roger K. Allen
Here is how we can deal and live with them maturely:
- Forgive past hurts. We have to learn to forgive our past mistakes, the unwise decisions we have made, the foolish things we have said, the times that we have let ourselves down, the times we have let friends down. We must stop torturing ourselves for the lack of wisdom when we needed it, for our cautiousness when we should have been bold, for our boldness when we should have been cautious. We must forgive the times when we lost our temper over trifles, failed to stand up for our rights when we should have, stepped on other people’s toes with our insensitive remarks, given into the inconsiderate egotism that is so much a part of human nature. For there is great sweetness in forgiveness; it is the balm for the scars of life. Without it there will be no quiet room in our minds to escape to for peace; there will be only a room rattling with tension. Once we learn to forgive ourselves, then we be able to forgive others. Too many people waste their time obsessed with hatred for those who have hurt them. Isn’t it time to forgive and forget? Then you can move on making each day a life in itself, living, loving, challenging. Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future. ~Paul Boes
- Live in the present. When we aren’t being present we become a victim of time. Our minds are pulled into the past, the future, or both. The fact is that the past doesn’t exist and neither does the future. The only true reference point we have to existence is a feeling of presence, of being here in this body, of seeing the world through these eyes. “The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.” ~ Buddha. When we spend our time thinking and regretting about the past, or worrying over what is to come, which may or may not happen, then we will only be wasting precious days we will wish in the future we could have cherished more. Being present helps us appreciate the simple moments of life, calms us down during times of stress, and helps us to be more focused.
- Define Your Vision. We all have to know what we want, and what is important to us in life. Some people have a clear vision of their heart desires and dreams early in life, but for some of us the vision is unclear and the path difficult to find. In order to lead a life on a purpose and vision, we have to follow our passions and succeed in our dreams. We need to restore within our lives those moments of quiet reflection, those peaceful times of awareness where we can actually hear our own voice, have our own thoughts, and let them have time to go somewhere. We have to stop, become quiet, listen to our heart and think. And then we will be able to seize our vision, our direction, and clarity. “Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside awakens.” ~ Carl Jung
- Accept and embrace reality. Life is unpredictable. Nothing is permanent, everything changes; and a lot of things can happen that can transform who we are and have an impact on our lives. The point is that we need to develop the skill to simply accept whatever comes and embrace it. We create suffering by not accepting reality. “We need to develop the habit of looking at whatever happens through a positive mindset instead of a negative and defeatist one”. By practicing acceptance we prepare ourselves to accept reality and live in this changing world, where we never know what’s going to happen next. Acceptance is like protecting ourselves with our own shields. The truth is that we can’t change the reality, even if we try. No amount of complaining or over thinking will make any difference when something unpredictable happen. So instead of getting worried or distressed, we need to choose to accept and live with reality.
- Act with honesty and integrity. “The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively”. Acting with honesty and integrity means that we follow our moral or ethical convictions, care about trust, cherish our relationships, and respect the importance of a solid reputation. It means that we are true to ourselves, committed to do our best and are prepared to acknowledge the result of our action. It requires us to keep discipline, to take responsibility and to fulfil our promise. It demands us to capitulate short-term outcome for something with higher vision that is larger and more meaningful in the long term. “It’s simple. Never lie to someone who trusts you, and never trust someone who lies to you”.
- Escape now and then. When I talk about escape, I do not mean a permanent retreat from the world; I mean a temporary interval of peace, in which you can think about things without fear and bring back the heart and body of your soul to face life’s struggles, feeling renewed. You do not need an exotic faraway; a quiet room in your own home is most suitable, or a pleasant place in your neighbourhood, where you can feel comfortable and secure; and think about your days and your goals; about where you are going and what you are doing, what your purpose is in life, and how you can build richer meaning in life for yourself and your loved ones. For a meaningful escape from life’s problems, you must find another room; in your mind. A room in your mind where you can think peacefully, plan sensible resolves, refresh your energies. “Quiet the mind, and the soul will speak.”
You can’t go back and change the past, so there’s no point in beating yourself over things you have done wrong, or mistakes you have made before. Even if it takes you months to figure it out, search for the positive that resulted from your negative situations. Accept the fact that mistakes are inevitable, unavoidable, and you cannot avoid mistakes or problems in life. But they present you with the perfect opportunity to strengthen your character, to learn, to grow and to improve yourself. Things won’t magically change. We change them by expanding ourselves, making new choices and behaving in a new way. “You don’t overcome challenges by making them smaller but by making yourself bigger” ~ John Maxwell