Look at Where You Want to Go

Photo from Gearpatrol.com

Why is it human nature that we are constantly re-hashing the things in our past? Why do we focus on the things behind, instead of the things ahead? So much emotional dysfunction is a result of our experiences, so it’s natural for us to dwell on our personal history… events wonderful and terrible. One of the problems is that this vision isn’t really perfectly clear. Our memories are not flawless and our emotions tend to color and distort everything. After almost six months of counseling, I’m learning that my recollections and perceptions are distorted.

Looking back and learning from our past is very important. We need to understand how we got to where we are. But dwelling excessively, disproportionately, is unhealthy. Imagine driving a winding, interesting, scenic, busy road, constantly focused on the rear-view mirror. How well is that going to work? Is it safe? Productive? Do you think you’ll arrive where you intended to go?

As I’ve recently heard someone say in one of my favorite podcasts ‘There’s a reason the rearview mirror is so small and the windshield is so big.’ Take a moment to reflect there. Our attention should be primarily focused on the road ahead. On where we are going and the things that are unfolding ahead and in front of us. We cannot alter the past. We cannot re-drive the road behind or (more importantly) change how we travelled it. We can only impact our future. This may include righting wrongs, or reconciling and healing hurts, but we cannot and should not constantly relive our past. It is our natural inclination and a function of trauma and emotional pain to do so, and to the degree that we do it with guidance from wise counsel, as a way to deal with our troubles, it’s fine. But to dwell on it otherwise is unhealthy.

I’m learning, more every day, to leave regret, shame and heartache where they belong. In my past. The grief and anger and pain need not be my life-long companions. And if I let them be that companion, if I let them define me, then my life will never be what it could be. I will never realize the joy that I’m meant for. And I want that joy VERY much.

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