Are You Living Life Through Your Rearview Mirror?

I stood in the parking lot with my other daughters and just… watched. A mixture of embarrassment, anger and exhaustion swirled inside me. Muted screams and flashes of red hair and wildly kicking legs swirled inside my van. All this because I said “No” to my 8 year old. All that because she’s still not healed of her past.

I wanted to get angry at her for being so frustrating! But as my mouth opened, the words fell silent. I do it too. This holding on to past hurts.

We all do it. We’re encouraged to forgive and forget issues, but if you’re like me, it doesn’t seem to work. It just drains precious resources we could use to live intentionally in our strengths.

The problem with “forgive and forget” is this: We can’t forget. Our minds are built to remember.

So if we can’t forget, what can we do to let go of past hurts and live fully in our strengths today? The key is in three actions we must take, which Paul emphasized when he said,

“…forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.~ Philippians 3:13-14, ESV

Neglect the past hurts.
The original language for “forgetting” means to neglect what lies behind us. To let it starve, shrivel up and waste away from lack of attention and nourishment. Forgetting is a decision to turn our backs and, once we’ve chosen forgiveness, ignore the hurt no matter how much it whines for our attention.

Focus on the now.
Nature abhors a vacuum – we naturally want to fill a void. As we neglect past hurts, we have to grab on to something else or we’ll eventually turn back to the familiar, even if it’s painful. The original language here is “to stretch toward.” Toward what? Toward what is before you right now. No radical change needed. Simply reach for what’s in front of you today.

Pursue hope.
Once we’ve turned away from our past and toward the now, we gain momentum by “pressing toward” the goal. What exactly is this goal? A future and a hope.* A unique gifting for what you do and who you interact with.** There’s infinitely more good to pursue than what’s back in our old hurts!

Have you had any success with the classic “forgive and forget” model? I’d love to hear your thoughts.


*Jeremiah 29:11-13
**1 Peter 4:10

Photo credit: Leaving the Past Behind, by Kristine Butler – Canada, 2009, via

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