If you’ve ever hurt anyone, be it physically, emotionally, financially, or whatever, this story is meant for you. The scars and the emotional pain can sometimes linger for years. If those who’ve been hurt have truly forgiven you and you’ve both moved on, then good for you! However, as many of us know, life doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes, people just aren’t willing to “let go” but usually it’s because they simply can’t. Perhaps you’ve even been on the receiving end. If you are, remember this. The pain you feel is real, of that there is no doubt. But the level of pain you feel is many times far less than those who have hurt you. One day, you will move on. They often live with it for the rest of their life. Either way, the story you’ll see here should resonate in both cases. What I’m about to say next may surprise some of you, but the lessons you learn from it, and the steps you take to face and rectify past errors, will determine your inner peace and serenity for the rest of your life. Do NOT live with any regrets about your life and your past. Doing so means only one thing. You haven’t learned a darn thing. More importantly, you haven’t taken the steps to pull yourself out of yesterday’s events so you can move on with your life in a positive and productive fashion. Living with ANY regrets robs you of TODAY, leaving you no hope for tomorrow. Lastly, things “happen” for a reason. Nothing in God’s world “happens” by mistake. Your awareness and acceptance of that statement is also critical for your emotional health. Now to the story on my mind.
Both of them are still among the living, though far away from me, one in Virginia and the other in Kansas. With me being in California, we are distanced from each other literally from one end of this country to the other, one on the west, one on the east, and one smack dab in the middle of the heart of America’s “heartland.” Although I’ve done this already, I’d do it again without hesitation, if only to cement what’s already been said one last time. If they were here right now, standing in front of me, I’d tell them this, probably with a tear in my eye: “I CAN’T change the past, but what I CAN do is to change the present. To do the BEST I know how, at this very moment, and do the “right” things.” They are two MEN, one a generation ahead of me and one behind me. I’m standing in the middle. On my left is my father, the man whose side I barely left for a minute while I was awake and growing up as a young boy in Western Kansas. On my right is my son, still not quite 18, but still very much a man in his own right. He’s had some tough cards dealt to him over the past few years. So has my father. Cards that I had a hand in dealing to both of them with my words and actions in years past.
There’s a song written by Mike and the Mechanics called “In the Living Years.” Here then, are portions of the song: “You say you just don't see it…He says it's perfect sense…You just can't get agreement…In this present tense…We all talk a different language …Talking in defense…Say it loud, say it clear…You can listen as well as you hear..It's too late when we die…To admit we don't see eye to eye…So we open up a quarrel…Between the present and the past…We only sacrifice the future…It's the bitterness that lasts…So Don't yield to the fortunes…You sometimes see as fate…It may have a new perspective…On a different day…And if you don't give up, and don't give in…You may just be OK.”
As most of you know by now, many times I choose music to express my feelings. Words are powerful and the lyrics of this song sum up some of my own feelings very well. That’s a reality and a universal truth from which there is no escape and I, of all people, realize this more than ever as I reflect back on the “past.” But with that ONE WORD, it symbolizes everything for me. The past is just that. It’s gone. None of us can change what we did, didn’t do, said, and didn’t say, five minutes ago, let alone five months or five years ago.
Nearly ALL of us, at one point or another in our lives will do or say things that hurt other people. But, there’s another reality and universal truth about that statement. MANY times, the things we say or do hurt the ones we love the most. Most of us know this. We also know that many times, these SAME people are the ones who are least likely to forgive us! But it is at THAT moment that separates those who are AWARE enough from those who aren’t to realize something else. You may find this hard to believe but I’ve discovered that the vast majority of mankind STILL hasn’t “cottoned” to this concept. It goes something like this:
Sometimes, you just HAVE to move on with your life in a positive, productive fashion, and look back with NO REGRETS. But there’s only ONE way to do this. First, you must ask God for forgiveness for your transgressions against others. Then you forgive yourself. Finally, you ask forgiveness from those you’ve hurt. Again, most of you should know this. Here’s the toughest part of all and here’s where many of you get stuck in the past. Those you love the most may NEVER truly and freely forgive you. Your ACCEPTANCE of that cold hard fact of life is critical to your emotional survival! Instead though, you hold on, you KEEP trying to get them to accept your amends. In fact, sometimes you almost beg for it. That’s when you get stuck in “yesterday.” So you keep doing and saying things, trying to “make up” for the past. Meanwhile, you’ve forgotten what’s important. Yourself. Today. You end up sacrificing YOUR future all in the vain and desperate attempt to convince others that you NEED their forgiveness. Fact is, you DON’T! If you’ve truly asked God for forgiveness, forgiven yourself, and merely by the action of making amends the best you know how to those you’ve hurt, then you’ve done your job. What others do is their choice. Will they stay stuck in “yesterday?” Or will they realize that they have a choice as well? Do they move on with their lives, leaving the bad baggage behind? Will they take only the good memories with them in the present?
Life goes on. When we “let go and let God” is when miracles happen. Before long, those we’ve hurt come back at some point in our lives and our relationships with those we’ve loved and hurt rises to a level of beauty and consciousness that astounds us! Last summer, my Dad and I saw each other for the first time in two years. Up to that point, we’d spoken by phone with each other probably only a half dozen times. It was magical. And although we’ve again hit another bump in the road recently, I’m confident that magic will return.
Meanwhile, my son and I recently opened up a dialogue after months of silence between us. He sent me this Facebook message only two days ago, “I don’t hate you Dad. The past IS the past and life moves on.” Wise words from someone not quite 17, wouldn’t you say?
People ask me, “Don’t you have any regrets with your life?” The answer sometimes surprises them and it may do the same to you, but when you think about it, it’s pretty simple and easy. “NO. Because if I did, it means only one thing. I didn’t learn a darn thing.” And so, like the song says in “The Living Years”, “Don't yield to the fortunes…You sometimes see as fate…It may have a new perspective…On a different day…And if you don't give up, and don't give in…You may just be OK.”