A few thoughts on how to release regret and learn to live (III)

[You may wish to read Parts I & II first.]

The Past and The Present

O God, You know my foolishness,
and my faults are not hidden from You.
Let not those who hope in You be put to shame through me…
Psalm 69.6

I easily look back and feel shame about my past and sadness for what is no more.

It does not help me when people suggest that I was doing the best I could at the time. That may be true. It is also true that we are prey to self-deception. I know I could have done better, and I know that my mistakes have had consequences, some of them serious. That I am culpable, however, does not mean I refuse to afford myself self-friendship and self-compassion.

A couple of months ago I was on retreat and I found myself ruminating on past relationships, mistakes, dishonestly made decisions. I felt guilt, shame, hurt, loss, and a need to grieve and repent.

“I am surprised to sense You, Jesus, intimate that it is a waste of time going back over this old territory. You show me that my shameful messes feel like a heavy lump on my chest. If I continue in this I will waste my life and never feel deep love and acceptance and belonging. I must stop looking back: I can’t go back and make it better or pick up where I left off; it is time to let go.

“I let go by focusing on You, or now, on who I am now. I am loved, and blessed and desired by You.

“Grow up: there is work to be done! I need to make a life now.”

This is a shift:

  • from poverty consciousness: good things were in the past, but I messed up; there will not be anything new for me in the future;
  • to abundance consciousness: I can make a life I want, the world is a rich place, and God’s grace is overwhelmingly overflowing.

Another way to say this is that it is a shift:

  • from desolation: ruminating on the past, what [Ignatius][] calls ‘sadness’: which is all about what I have lost and where I have failed;
  • to consolation: coming home to the present; to trust in the love of God and a future full of hope.

“Every time I think about the past, about loss, about failure, I can offer them – the situations, myself, the person or people – to You. It is hard to let go. But, Jesus, they are Yours. I pray for their well-being and I trust them to You. This is freedom.

“Yes, partly I hold onto them because I have hurt them or failed them. There is unfinished business and I feel I have to make things right. But I cannot do this. You still hold them; and I cannot, and need not, heal them.

“And I trust myself to You so you can hold and heal me too, for I cannot hold and heal myself.”

[See Part IV]

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