The past happens, and it has effects, but happiness comes from living in the present.
Do you know what happens when we choose to ignore forgiveness and instead choose to hold to anger and grudges? Instead of living in our present moment and enjoying life, we end up living in the past. Everything we do is coloured by what happened weeks, months or even years ago.
Welcome to Day Twenty-Nine of 30 Days to Forgiveness. Click here to read the first post!
That’s no way to live!
Being stuck in the past is part of what makes you feel trapped. It’s time to stop being stuck in the past and to learn to live in the present.
Embracing the idea of living in the here and now is another tool that will help you forgive and move on. Sounds confusing?
Here’s what happens.
Once you learn to live in the present, you stop fretting and worrying about the past. It doesn’t mean ignoring the past, but it does mean accepting it.
Remember The Lion King movie? When Simba insists that the past be left in the past, Rafiki hits him on the head to prove that what is in the past can still hurt you.
If you have gone through this entire series, you know that stuffing your hurt and pain deep down in the back of your brain, stewing upon while thinking that you had forgotten, is actually more harmful than facing it, accepting it and moving on.
The past is.
It is simply how you got to be in the present.
We can’t change what has already happened, no matter how much we stew on it or pretend that it didn’t happen. The past has shaped the people and events around you to where they are today. The trick is accepting and appreciating your present.
Accepting it doesn’t mean you’re not looking for improvements. Just like we can accept the hurt that someone has done to us, and forgive them, while still taking steps to improve the situation, we can accept our present while still working toward a better future.
Once you accept and come to appreciate your present – and the potential you have for a better future – it becomes difficult to feel too negatively about your past. There will still be hurts and betrayals that you need to root out and forgive, but you will have the ability to do so.
Again, I will use an example from my life. I have told you that I had surgery in 2008 to have an astrocytoma removed from my brain. After eight days in the hospital I came home … and immediately, some people who wanted to hurt me went on the attack. It was a terrible situation, but I overcame it and learned a lot about myself and about how bullies react when faced head on.
Today, every difficult situation is compared to that one, and none have yet come close. On heavy duty pain medication, weak and still healing from surgery, I stood strong in the face of people who wanted to bring me down, and I won.
But what about times when the other person did succeed, and they hurt you or took something from you? There are still lessons to be learned from that.
And ultimately, if those things that you are angry or hurt about didn’t happen, you wouldn’t be the person you are today.
It’s not easy.
I know it’s not easy.
You know enough about my life to realize that I have had hurts and pain and gut-wrenching disappointments. It’s not always easy to embrace the joys and challenges of the present and appreciate the lessons of the past.
Start by simply being present. Mindfulness, although it has come to be associated with Eastern spirituality, is very much a Christian concept. No matter what you are doing, be in the moment.
Notice the people and things around you.
Pay attention to what’s happening and look for the good in what happens. It’s almost always there.
Find joy in small things.
Give thanks and count your blessings every day.
Slow down and definitely stop and smell the roses.
Being stuck in the past is one danger, but another that is just as bad is being constantly worried about the future. When we keep our eyes and minds constantly on what might happen, we create a lot of anxiety. The problem is that we have absolutely no control over the future. The only thing you can control is this moment, right now.
Let tomorrow worry about tomorrow! Each day has enough troubles of its own. And yes, you will have trouble in this world, but don’t be anxious about it because Christ has overcome this world.
Learn to live in the present instead of fretting and agonizing about the future.
Some people go to the extreme and think this means you shouldn’t save and plan for the future.
No savings accounts.
No food stored in the pantry.
Well, I think that’s pretty silly, because do you know who is definitely not worrying and fretting? The person who is debt-free, has a nice savings account and has a pantry full of food. The Bible actually has nothing good to say about people who refuse to take care of their families and plan ahead!
Don’t worry and fret and be anxious about it, though.
Don’t spend sleepless nights stuck on things you have no control over. When you do that, you miss out on the beautiful present that you’re living in right now.
Remember I mentioned earlier about Rafiki hitting Simba with the stick to show him the absurdity of his extreme Hakuna matata philosophy? (If you somehow missed the 1990s, ‘Hakuna matata’ is a Swahili phrase that means ‘no worries’.)
The past happened, and it has its effects.
Don’t ignore them because then you are just going to keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again. That is the problem when you see people in abusive relationships who claim to have forgiven their abusive spouse without any clear evidence that things will change. “Well, I forgave him and let him come home.”
Nothing has changed, steps haven’t been taken to keep everyone safe, and the abuse is just going to keep happening. That’s not forgiveness, that’s a terrible kind of enabling.
Our past shapes us and makes us who we are today.
Living in the present means that we no longer allow ourselves to be trapped by it. We accept it and learn from it. Living in the present with forgiveness, love and grace allows us to let go of the past and move on to creating a better future.