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


  1. You’re correct that our own attempts to erase the past don’t work. You can delete this next part if it goes over the line of what you think is proper for your site….

    Christianity is based on the faith that there is One who CAN erase our past and let us start over in our souls. I’m thankful for that every day!

    That still does not help those I have harmed however, and I may never be able to repair the damage I have done, even if I say I’m sorry and try to make amends. One of my personal daily goals is to not do the things that in the past have required me to apologize.

    The link was useful and I’ll use your article as a basis for a devotional. Thank you! D.R.

    Comment by Don Roberson | September 8, 2008

  2. This hit me hard, Tina. There are so many things I can never undo and never make better, no matter how much I try. I try to be philosophical about it and say I am doing the best I can now, and I can only hope the people I hurt can forgive me. But, they won’t forgive me and I will have to live with that and accept it.

    I have a very wise counselor who told me that the worst thing I could do would be to “write them off” as lost causes, because that would only alienate them and me more. So, I try not to push my way into their lives, but I never stop trying to show that I’m different now. It may be too little, too late, but I won’t give up.

    The comment by Don about Christian faith is true and that is the only thing that has kept me changed, because I sure couldn’t do it on my own. Mike

    Comment by Mike B. | September 8, 2008

  3. I have a lot of memories I wish I could wipe out, but at about 3 a.m. they come back to get me. I can go forever and not think about them in the day time, but if I’m not sleeping that’s when I have problems with all the things I wish I had done different. You don’t need to tell me….I would probably do something just as bone-headed if I did it over. 🙂

    Comment by Wiseacre | September 9, 2008

  4. Yes! Yes! Let me erase about ten days of my life and replace them with something different. I might not do anything better but I don’t see how I could mess things up more! Give me that big pink eraser!KM

    Comment by KM | September 9, 2008

  5. Tina says: Thanks to all of you who commented, or who called me or emailed. I see I’m not alone in wishing I could erase some things and redo them.

    Sometimes we would like to be a better person. Sometimes we just wish we had taken a different path. Sometimes, as the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayaaim says, we wish we could remold the scheme of things and make it nearer to our heart’s desire.

    Life is challenging,isn’t it?

    Thank you again for letting me know your thoughts.

    Comment by TLR | September 9, 2008

  6. Tina, at my last H.S. reunion a classmate who came back for the first time in 15 years gave everyone a letter of apology for things she had done in high school! There was a lot of crying and laughing as we opened the letters and read them. It kind of opened up the floodgates for a lot of people and even some of the couples there apologized to their husbands and wives for things they had said or done that day. It was pretty awesome! So, it’s never too late I guess! P.

    Comment by P.A.H. | September 9, 2008

  7. Tina says: That’s a great story, P.A.H.! Thank you for sharing it!

    Comment by TLR | September 9, 2008

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