Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

Would You Like To Erase Parts of Your Past?

 When your past catches up with you, or you catch up with your past. Last month a woman was photographed after paying $53,000 to have puppies cloned from her former beloved pet. When her photo circulated around the world, several people came forward to accuse her of crimes dating back thirty years! She is facing a number of charges right now, although some of them have been dropped because of the statute of limitations. 

You may also recall several cases in which people on 12 Step Recovery programs have contacted people to seek forgiveness and make amends (Step Nine) and been charged and tried for the crimes they committed. In one case the man admitted to a lesser crime but his victim claimed something more serious and he was found guilty of that crime.

In the first situation, the woman’s past caught up with her and she is desperately trying to claim that it was not her. In the other situation, the people brought their pasts into the open in an effort to make things better–not always successfully. What they have in common with many of us is that they would like to erase the parts of their past that are now so humiliating or troubling, or that are creating trouble for them. One man who sought forgiveness for stealing money from his workplace thirty years ago said, “That was another me. The me I am now is ashamed, disgusted and repulsed by what I did.”

Have you ever felt that way? Not about something criminal I hope, but about something you wish you had not done, or swear you would never do now? Have you ever remembered something you said, did or thought years ago–or only months, weeks or days ago–and wished you could erase it? You cannot, and neither can those who are aware of what you did. So, is there any way to make it better?

1. If you can apologize without causing emotional pain or embarassment, do so. If you had a bad relationship or did unkind or ill-judged things, or if someone else “knew you when”, and you wish they had a better memory of you, perhaps you can discuss it with them and feel some forgiveness or at least understanding. That is not always a kind thing, however–and you may find it makes the other person feel bad while you are trying to feel good.

If you do not feel you can apologize or if you think it will create more hard feelings, consider re-contacting that person and focus on establishing a better relationship this time. They may think there are things they need to apologize about as well! Or, if it seems you can talk about it, mention your poor judgment and talk briefly about the old you and how you regret what you did. Sometimes one sincere sentence like that can bring resolution to both of you, without creating even more discomfort.

2. Commit to your new, better and more mature life. Perhaps you were wrong or used poor judgment back then. LIve your life now in the best way possible.  Think of what you want to say about your life in another year. Will you be proud of your work and life this year or will you be wishing you could erase it?

3. Do not make excuses for yourself. It is true that you are probably no worse than many others. It is also true that no good comes from beating up on yourself mentally about relatively minor things from the past. However, do not fall into the trap of convincing yourself you really have no reason to feel remorse or regret. One way you know you have matured and improved is that you see what you did wrong and what was unwise, and you feel badly about it.

4. Be your own parent or counselor. If a friend or your child came to you with the situation you are thinking about, what would you suggest they do? You would probably tell them to try to make it right, and if that is not possible, to simply promise to do better in the future and live up to the promise. That is what you can do as well.

Whatever you did decades, years or months ago, you do not have to do it again. You can be a better person, and a person for whom you have more respect. If you do that steadily, consistently and whole-heartedly, you will be able to see yourself as different than that old version of you was, and others will see you differently as well. Now and then you may find someone who remembers the old you. Let them hear and see the new you, and stick with it. The new you–the best you–can be the real you!

September 7th, 2008 Posted by | Life and Work, Personal and Professional Development | 7 comments