To a very large extent, our future is influenced by our present, and without a past, there would be no present. In a very profound way, our past, present and future are all interconnected, and without our direct intervention, could easily become a straight line for better or worse, and usually for worse.
Some of us are specially blessed to have a past of which we are totally proud. Most of us, on the other hand, have at least small areas in our past, to which we, if given the chance, would make at least some minor adjustments. And you can tell that I am straining to be magnanimous. But despite our best efforts, we cannot make even the smallest change to our past. It is, and will always be just what it says… past.
At the end of each day, the record for that day is closed and sealed.
And yet, whether we like it or not, our past is gone, but not forgotten. The record lives both in our memories and in the consequences of our past actions and inactions. If we dislike either the memory or the consequences of our actions or inactions, we can commit never to repeat the mistakes we made. We can choose, in its place, to so positively think, speak and act, that we will create the future outcome that we desire, regardless of the failures in our past.
And I wish that all of life was as simplistic as that. Unfortunately, it is not. You see, although we must hold ourselves philosophically responsible for our past as leverage for changing our future, in many cases that would be a hard sell. I am not responsible for the family into which I was born, or the country of which I am a citizen by birth. I am not responsible for my ethnicity, nor for my childhood educational opportunities, or lack thereof. The socio-economic profile of my parents is out of my control, and so are the varying temperaments of the relatives and family members who surrounded me. And I am sure you can add a few factors that I have omitted. All of these are factors that were out of my control, but all of them indelibly imprinted my past, and left their footprint on my present. In light of that, How do I live past my past?
There is no better place to start than with the mindset of American Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, who said in his sermons in 1934:
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” –
History abounds with the records of people who were born with major physical, social, economic or mental handicaps, and who defied the odds to become influencers on the world stage.
Helen Keller, Stevie Wonder, Marley Matlin, John Hawkinberry, Steven Hawkin, Bethnie Hamilton, Ludwig Von Bethoven, John Nash, Albert Einstein, John Milton, Francisco DeGoya, Franklin D. Rooseveldt, and very much alive and very much current today, Nick Voyajich who was born without arms and legs, and today, surfs, dives, and is an International Motivational Speaker and Minister of the Gospel of Jesus.
Here is the secret. Accept the historical facts about yourself that you cannot change, and develop the courage to change everything else. Spend no time focusing on your many liabilities, and instead, concentrate all your attention on the few, or even on the single asset you have. The world has a special place for you when you succeed against the odds.