How much of our lives is spent regretting our past? We engage in countless analyses of what we have done wrong and how others have hurt us. Traditional psychology often doesn’t help with its emphasis on “resolving” our past pain. Spiritual direction that emphasizes “peeling an onion” is not much better.
There are only four things we find in the past. Good things to enjoy, bad things to be angry and depressed about, sinful things that bring feelings of shame and guilt, and good deeds we have done. Except for joyful reminiscing, it’s best to look at all dispassionately, and only for what each may teach us.
Sinful deeds can teach us how do right. They provide a vehicle for self-knowledge. We are not God, the Perfect One. We are flawed human beings that can be grateful for Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and for the sacrament of reconciliation, a place where secrets can come to light, are forgiven, and rest in peace.
The hurts other people inflict can remind us we live in a sinful world. Rather than pick at the scabs, we can model Christ. He lived in the present as a new person, using His past pain to affect a greater good. Had He not suffered He would not have been transformed into someone different and better. The same can be said of us.
Reminiscing on our past good deeds can keep us from continuing to do them in the present. A dispassionate glance is all that is needed to prevent pride and remind us of our Christian duty and call.
That leaves the one thing that is good to remember passionately. The good things. These are the gifts God gives to strengthen us as we journey through the rest. These memories can instill gratitude, a health promoting virtue that will bring us closer to the heart of God.
May God bring us to this place of joy, now and for all eternity.