02 Aug Why is it that, past regrets hunts us down and haunts us?
Scripture itself speaks about the wisdom of not living in the past, but moving forward and strangely enough, the secular world is also in full agreement with this. We hear it often enough from them, in fact some people love to toot this, as if it is an inherent part of their attitude, while others looking at them, feel, even more challenged at their inability to move past negative incidents or regrets.
Somehow, when we find ourselves immersed in so many incidents of the past, that are eating into us, it seems easier and even mindless for people to “so easily” advice us, but the fact is it is harder to execute.
In fact Christians may even feel tempted to wallow in such “guilt” believing they need to “pay the price” or feel, that if they have not “cleaned up” the past, they cannot move on because it is like walking away from a mess, that haunts you, especially since this is a part of your life and involvement.
Therefore, reflecting back, if in general, you have followed the (below) principle, then there is nothing more you can do.
Mathew Chapter 7 verse 12: So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
You may also derive another teaching from this: Do not do unto others, what you would not want them do to you.
While this is not the main focus of this article, however if you believe it is in your power to “clean up” anything more of the past, you can do this by asking for pardon from the one you offended and opening up to a priest in the sacrament of reconciliation. Finally if there is anything you could offer in reparation, you can do this and appease your soul.
Isaiah Chapter 43 verses 18 to 19: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”
Realize God our loving Father too, is all about moving past things, which does not only include sins but situations, as He focuses onwards, towards progress and not stagnation.
You can see this, in His own intelligent nature, when He sent Jesus to die for all our sins, because He wanted to do something brand new and that is why He encourages us to frequent the sacrament of Confession, as He wants us to forget our past, thereafter bless us because He does not believe in living in it!
What are some of the reasons we tend to stick to the past in some way or another?
A – Psychological/emotional reasons
- It is harder to give up what we already have, even if it means we would receive a rainbow full of blessings
Sometimes we get confused, when God Himself has put us into a family (as kids) or with a spouse or at a work place, yet some of the relationships therein, are not in perfect sync.
Work example: Rebecca was glad God blessed her with a sales job. She expected to work hard, in harmony with her sales manager and build a great working atmosphere. However, the manager was so figure driven, that the more she proved herself, he showed zero appreciation but pushed her to perform harder during the one year of her tenure. During a short dry period, her sales dropped and he was so impatient, that he threatened to terminate her, because of which she got frustrated and finally left. Only then did he admit to her that she had shocked him most of the time, as she performed above his expectations.
Her mistake was that, years later, even though she got good breaks, she looked back at this chapter in her life as a bad one, with regret and sorrow. She declared there was no happy memory of that job and wondered why she took it up or if God really gave her this job.
One day, God helped her realize that just because this job was the will of God for her and His blessing, yet, it did not necessarily mean that He meant to give her a “package deal”, but since this had been her job and it was her manager, she (like any human) saw all this all as a territory she belonged to, and expected all to sync wonderfully (and she did her best to make it that way, through fair play).
When this did not happen, it bothered her and she wondered where she failed, though in fact she had not. The job was rich in experiences of life and people, and it taught her new ropes, in her sales work too. In fact what she did not know is that God was only giving her a temporary experience to eventually call her away from that job, to help her step higher on the career rung.
We tend to feel very bad and self-blame when something that was given into our hands (especially by God), and all of what it was comprised of, did not work out well, though we put our best effort. Sometimes we feel that the whole project was our responsibility and that we failed (even if it was in some small area – but this spoilt the picture) and this can nerve us. Finally letting go of it (or rather a part of it) from our hands (when it turns sour), seems like amputating a part of our limbs, as we feel it was something that belonged to us.
We cannot seem to digest that some people or things are just not meant to blend with us; in fact they are not good for us and do not suit our personality but can even alter it, for the worse!
While it feels very frustrating, we have to realize this is a testing area and it is not new.
Looking at Eden, a perfect paradise, within it, God deliberately placed something that was frustrating and termed it dangerous, when He warned: Don’t touch it, don’t go near it, don’t eat it – or you will surely die … the tree of knowledge (which also included) the serpent.
It was the only “not to be friended” thing, which made it even more mysterious, such that Eve was so restless, and she would not stop parading up and down that zone, feeling frustrated.
Though Eden was a gift; a place of grace and love, yet that God given gift comprised of an area that was to be kept away from, not to be “loved” or embraced. Eve could not live with this, neither could Rebecca (in the story) and many others. Eve fell and this is a lesson we must learn, some frustrating realities are allowed by God in the very place God blessed us to be in, to test our tenacity, as absurd as it may seem (especially after we have done a great deal to make it work out).
Paradoxically we are not to “love” (per se) everything and look for a restful home in it. Life is not that way at all, rather for many of us, it is a call to first completely let go (in time) of a small blessing and only after coming away from it, embrace a greater blessing that can be our ultimate call our purpose! Some of us have a great potential to evolve and God knows this which is why we need to retract from the temptation to complacently “live happily ever after” and not grow.
Absolutely nothing is forever. The only thing that is forever is you and your Maker. Being fully cocooned in His love means, you should not be too attached to anything/anyone else, or you will forget the only thing that lasts – the relationship between Him and you.
Mary struggled in a sacrificial life of persecution to protect and care for Jesus. One would naturally think, that in all fairness she earned the right to have Jesus to herself especially at a tender age of widowhood and as an older woman. No, it was at this vulnerable time, she had yet again to evolve and physically let go of Him, embrace and live with children (apostles and early Christians) who were not hers.
We assume that as God has given us our parents, siblings, cousins, spouses, God fearing friends – we should enjoy a life of great experiences with all of them, especially if we try to be as faithful as possible. Except for extremely bad and abusive relationships, a person may be tempted to look at some of these relationships that were challenging, as a thing of regret and failure.
You may have had a friend/spouse (perhaps even God fearing) who you got along with “like a house on fire”. It may therefore have shocked you at times that though you and him or her were so like-minded and like natured, there were times when he or she was so indifferent to something(s) that meant a lot to you. He/she showed no reaction, no botheration or even asked you to stop speaking about it, in annoyance.
The indifference or lack of empathy may have shocked and hurt you especially coming from an otherwise pleasant person who had a “one on one” nature with you.
In time, if this kept happening, you may have felt that they did not care for you and this created a wide gap, as it repeatedly happened. Perhaps you are no longer close with that person today and you often reflect in sorrow and deep down, even guiltily wonder how much of this is your fault.
The fact is, while it may shock the one who experiences this which can be quite painful, we are deceived to think that our best friend is a photocopy of ourself – in every way! Yes like-minded and like-natured people enjoy a close bond, but there will always be these strange areas of total indifference from an otherwise good and maybe Godly best friend. If you expect a perfect sync, you will soon find yourself looking into this good relationship, as a thing of the past and feeling sorrow.
Easier said than done, nevertheless, it is wiser to recognize that there is a line drawn beyond which your good friend cannot “naturally” come closer to you (in this area). So even if his/her indifference seems cold, it is best to avoid that topic/engagement with this otherwise nice person, instead of striving for a “photocopy” unity. Maybe in time, he/she will experience the meaningfulness in that area, just the way you feel it.
- Some have a perfectionist nature:
Perfectionists are people who see to it that they do the best job in every role they assume; this is not limited to work but even as parents, in communities and friends. Owing to their nature, which is especially active during work, it is hard for them to accept the bubble burst, primarily at work and in other roles (as they carry this expectation in regard to everything).
Nothing but good and perfect memories should accompany them when they dwell on relationships or work roles of the past or present. At times even though there could be a lot of good memories to cherish, but one particular problem (perhaps a recurring one – even if it was out of their control), could make them feel, like this whole chapter of their life was tainted with dark colours. They can dwell on it for long, feeling that they failed or experienced a sort of helplessness.
If you identify with this, you need to realize that your nature is confined to you and this is not how others conduct their life and business. This is rather an expectation from your perfectionist idealisms but honestly, it is not a realistic one.
- Unrealistic expectations about this human earthly life:
While the rule of Math guarantees us that two plus two, makes a four, this “just” principle of how things always work, may be guaranteed in Heaven, but not on earth.
Though Heaven is perfect, the earth, the footstool of God, is a testing, learning ground imperfect with sin. Sin is not even in the vocabulary of Heaven but God has permitted, enduring its existence on the earth.
In fact who but He, knowing He was working with this sinful world, was ever so prepared for a good plan being destroyed (when all His efforts of creation seem thwarted with the fall in the Garden of Eden) or when His painstaking work over the years was messed up (that is, sinful people destroying the quality of life, before He allowed the great flood), etc.
Though He was God, He knew in His wisdom, that on this earth, all things do not go as (carefully and painfully) planned and the results are not always pleasing – simply because the earth and its inhabitants, are to equally cooperate but they do not always do so, yet this is the way of life – as the earth is a testing ground.
The same God who could have, out of frustration, wiped out the entire earth during the flood, did not believe in putting a full stop right there – or else, His whole plan of humanity WOULD BE A FALIURE! He reworked His way again, with a (sacred) remnant, that is, Noah’s family, who learnt a lesson from the lawless people who died in the flood, shared it with their descendants, who cooperated more with God, than the people of the past. Similarly we too should imitate His understanding.
B – Lack of life’s experience:
- Naïve thinking:
While many of us have the drive to push things forward and work arduously to attain good results, we tend to think that these are the only two ingredients that are needed to make that part of our life, a song!
Yet, we need to remind our self of Proverbs Chapter 19 verse 21 – Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.
Did we at the start, consult God, whether this plan was good for us and did we use His advice to advance? Even if He approved it and it seems to have failed, He still has work to be done in this regard.
- Building up our faith in the Truth, verses reality
There is a good purpose and plan why a seemingly good friendship went sour when we did all we could to work at it and the hidden secret behind this, may only be revealed years later on.
Romans Chapter 8 verse 28: And we know that to them that love God all things work together for good, to them that are called according to his purpose.
We need to practice reading things this way (if on our part we did our all): God has a greater higher purpose, which we have either qualified for, or are in the process, and the former engagement may have stood in the way to hinder this joy for our soul.
During the 2008 recession, a hard working manager in the GCC was laid off (while a few colleagues were “lucky” not to have lost their jobs). He returned to his homeland after bidding adieu to his life in GCC and the close friends, he made there, over the years.
Dusting off this one negative memory from his work tenure at his last firm, instead of dwelling on it, he looked at what lies ahead. In fact, taking some of his experience and all the ideas (from his GCC life chapter), God helped him to zero-in on a new business, a contemporary snack and bakery joint near a prime university. Nearly a year later, his old friends were surprised to see this business man back again, visiting the GCC, only to source, state of the art equipment for his second bakery! His business had been mind blowing and his jaw dropping friends were awed, when he stated that his only “regret” was that he did not get laid off sooner!
Stagnating or snail’s pace progress
Genesis Chapter 19 verses 15, 17 and 26: At daybreak the angels hurried Lot along, saying, “Get up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away in the punishment of the city.” As soon as the men had brought them out, one of them said, “Run for your lives! Do not look back, and do not stop anywhere on the plain! Flee to the mountains, or you will be swept away!” But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.
In turning back, Lot’s wife not only strike us as curious, but was probably even going through mixed emotions to leave behind a city she lived in. She may have held on to it, though it had lost all potential as a place to live in, since it was already eaten away with disgusting corruption, and it had an uncomfortable ambience of suffocating lawlessness, which the whole family had been gasping from. Unwillingness to pull away from her city, which was a dead stone hearted nation, rendered her into a dead stone (pillar of salt). Her divided heart stopped her from evolving and because of this, the end result was, it was pointless in her carrying on her life, which is why she died.
Likewise some foolish Israelites groaned about leaving Egypt, the land of slavery for the Promised Land (because of the minor benefits in Egypt) and they were destroyed. They were (as the saying goes), “Penny wise and Pound foolish”!
The future can be ours and good, if we are willing to fully embrace it by letting go of our regrets – keeping in mind that the balance scales of our fallen earth are very different from the just scales of heaven and we need to work at accepting this reality.