Self-forgiveness means accepting the fact that you will never have a better past.
You’re lucky to have your whole life ahead of you. You’re able to choose how you will live it. Many people wake up in middle age to the realization that the life they have lived is not the life they wanted. This often results in regret, disappointment, and a mid-life crisis.
I enjoy watching Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan on the National Geographic Channel. It follows real-life dog expert Cesar Millan as he works with people and their pets. Millan finds that problem behavior is more often caused by the human owner than by the dog.
Many of his clients have rescued their pets from abusive or neglectful situations. The owners mistakenly believe that their dogs’ behavior problems are caused by bad memories, when in fact the owner’s worry is to blame.
Millan points out that dogs don’t care about—or even remember—the past. “Dogs live in the now,” Millan says. “They don’t care about their past lives. If you give them exercise, discipline, and affection, they will be happy and well-adjusted.”
Maybe we could learn a thing or two from dogs. Whatever bad stuff has happened in the past, leave it there—in the past. You’re an adult now. Childhood was just the warm-up act; now is the time for you to take control of your own well-being. As Cesar Millan would say: live in the now. If a dog can do it, surely so can you!
Of course, you can’t just live in the now. To paraphrase Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, you should live in the past, the present, and the future. But don’t let the past rule you.
Who you are today is a composite result of everything that you have experienced in the past. Recognize that fact, but resist the temptation to go back. Don’t regret or wonder, “What if?” Your life is here and now. By the same token, you must look ahead, to the future. Decide where you want to go, and start moving in that direction. If you don’t, you could find yourself in a life that goes nowhere.
So here’s the trick: cherish all the good stuff from the past, let go of all the bad stuff, and envision the future that you want for yourself. Then use the present to begin creating that future.