We all have a past, of course. And it would be difficult to find anyone who has never made a misstep, never had regrets, or who is without a few skeletons in the closet.
To err is human, and we’ve all made mistakes. Something we don’t want to end our lives with is a sense of regret, with words like “If only ...” or “I should have ...” on our lips.
But we may also have to live with the fact that terrible things were done to us, from abuse to financial disasters, and everything between. Too many of us are haunted by our pasts.
To live with a clear conscience and to leave ugly memories behind, there are several things we can do.
1) Accept the past
It happened. What was done to us was terrible, but we need to accept that it happened and not live in denial. The problem with denial is that the old reality eventually creeps back up and negatively affects our lives.
Accept how it made you feel, and accept the pain. It’s not easy to do because pain hurts. But pain fades when we face up to our past.
The spiritual website OneWithNow has some good advice:
“Resisting or questioning how you feel isn’t going to help you. What helps is allowing the pain to go through you. Sit with it and let it be. Cry if you feel like crying; or simply close your eyes and feel the emotions go through your body. You can also channel your feelings through physical movement. Go for a brisk walk, run, do the dishes or clean something.”
2) Seek forgiveness
This can be a real test, but it’s important to know that forgiveness is for ourselves, not for others. If we have done wrong we need to admit it and apologize. Make amends.
It’s the other person’s choice and prerogative whether they forgive you are not. You have no right to be angry with them if they reject your apology. But do it, and mean it if you do. Even if you're rejected, you’ll know you acknowledged the pain you caused, and moving on will be easier.
3) Forgive others
Forgiving others, even if they have not shown regret, is the best gift you can give yourself to live free of past pain.