“Accomplishments don’t erase shame, hatred, cruelty, silence, ignorance, discrimination, low self-esteem or immorality. It covers it up, with a creative version of pride and ego. Only restitution, forgiving yourself and others, compassion, repentance and living with dignity will ever erase the past.”
― Shannon L. Alder
As Alder so eloquently outlines, there are six keys to moving beyond a past we are not happy with and into a future of peace. Let’s break them down together.
Restitution: Restore, rejuvenate, revitalize. Invest in pouring into yourself. In times of trauma or sorrow, write down 10 things that generally make you happy. Do them. If you feel numb while you do them, good. That’s normal. Continue to do them. The joy will follow. Revitalize the positivity in your life by doing the things you know the soul of you enjoys – even if you are having difficulty enjoying them at this juncture in your life. Practicing and actively participating in your “love list” eventually begins to restore and rejuvenate you. My love list includes coffee, laughing, re-watching old episodes of The Office, red wine, time with friends, going to the movies, taking a nature walk, cleaning my room, cooking a delicious meal, snuggling up with a good book. These actions provide restitution instantly when I’m at my best, and slowly but surely when I’m at my worst.
Forgiving Yourself: Self-rejection stunts your growth and keeps you stuck. Release yourself from this. Forgive yourself for all the mistakes you have made, for every moment you wish you had handled differently, for everything you find unacceptable about yourself. Forgive, forgive, forgive. This is the only path to move forward.
Forgiving Others: Holding a grudge and refusing to forgive someone is, as they say, “like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” Your lack of forgiveness keeps you from being able to move beyond this person. It only harms you. Forgiveness is not telling them “what you did was acceptable” – it is telling them “what you did will no longer have any power over me.” It is freeing. It is necessary.
Compassion: The word compassion is a noun and is perhaps best defined by its synonyms; empathy, care, concern, warmth, love, tolerance, kindness, humanity, and charity. Practice more of this. Compassion is like a muscle, it is strengthened when used frequently. Compassion’s antonyms: indifference and cruelty, have no place in your life.
Repentance: The mistake that brought you to a place of shame, hatred, ignorance, or low self-esteem will sometimes require you to go through sincere remorse. Express this remorse to those who you hurt. Express it sincerely. If you do not have the opportunity to say it in person, write a letter. You don’t even need to send the letter – just write down the remorse you have for hurting them. Then move on.
Living with Dignity: A life of dignity is a life of self-respect. It is a life of respect for others. It is a life of growth and grace and staying true to oneself. As outlined in my favorite book The Four Agreements, “You can measure the impeccability of your word by your level of self-love. How much you love yourself and how you feel about yourself are directly proportional to the quality and integrity of your word. When you are impeccable with your word, you feel good; you feel happy and at peace.” This is to live with dignity. This is to live beyond your past.