Apparently I was a big Hannah Montana fan as a kid, because somehow her song lyrics have wound up in my blog twice in the past two months… the girl’s got a point though. Life really is a climb.
And now, unsurprisingly, please allow me to use this simple phrase as an excuse to ramble about the jumbled thoughts floating around in my head these days…
You know what’s funny? We drill into kids’ minds that they can do anything when they’re young. “The sky’s the limit.” “You can do anything you put your mind to.” “Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” “Life’s what you make it.” “If you can dream it, you can do it.”
Why do we so often choose to forget these words when we’re older? Is it because we don’t actually believe them to be true? Because that would mean we’re lying to pretty much every kid growing up today. Or is it because we know now the amount of work and risk that would come with actually accepting these sayings as truth? If you ask me, I think we’re all just scared… (but I’ve talked enough about fear for the time being).
So fear aside, I’ve decided I’m going to try to live like a kid again, and believe that these things are true… that change is possible and that dreams can become reality. And I’m coming to realize that in order to change my future, I need to change my present. And in order to change my present, I need to forgive my past.
If you think about life as a climb up a ladder (here she goes with the metaphors again…), I think a lot of times some of us think that we’re stuck on a rung. We can’t climb up to higher rungs of change, goals, progress, and potential in life, because we’re chained to the rung we’re on. We’re stuck. Or worse, not only can we not climb up, but our only way is back down to rungs we’ve already surpassed once (or 100 times) before. We’re slaves to our past, and are destined to fall back into old ways, dwell on what’s already happened, and hang onto habits, people, memories, and things that no longer serve us.
Well in the name of Jesus, I’m going to have to call bull. (Is that sacrilegious?) I have come to believe that this is one of the biggest lies Satan feeds us… that we are unable to continue the climb up the ladder of life. But it’s just simply not true. Unless, of course, we let it be true.
Now this is where I’m realizing that in order to actually prove Satan wrong, we need to do something about it. Calling BS isn’t enough, and it’s necessary to actually take action to reap results, because the fact of the matter is, a lot of people are stuck. But they don’t need to be. None of us need to be.
I think the simplest things we can do to work our way up the ladder are as follows:
(P.S. Please keep in mind when I say we, I really mean I. I just say we to make myself feel like I’m not talking to myself).
1. Accept and appreciate the past for what it is.
It’s good to recognize the past for what it is, and acknowledge that in a lot of ways, we are the way we are because of our past.
2. “Forgive and forget.”
For a quick sec I thought about trying to come up with my own version of this saying, but I’d just overcomplicate the topic.
So forgiveness needs to happen on two fronts when it comes to the past. We need to 1. seek forgiveness from those we’ve wronged, and 2. also forgive ourselves for the ways we’ve wronged others and ourselves.
Notice I said seek forgiveness for number one, as opposed to attain forgiveness. Talk to the person you’ve continuously hurt in the past. Apologize to the people in your life that have received the brunt of your bad moods time and time again. Tell the people you’ve wronged that you want to make things right. After you’ve done this, recognize that not everyone will necessarily accept your apology, and at the end of the day, we don’t have the capability to force people into forgiving us. Don’t use someone else’s opinion of you as an excuse to hinder your own view of yourself and your potential. All we can do is let others know we are sorry for what we’ve done and that we desire reconciliation, and we should rest knowing that.
Now when it comes to number two (forgiving ourselves), this one we do need to attain. I am convinced that we can’t truly move on from our past and make lasting change until we show ourselves grace for the mistakes we’ve made in the past. And I’m talking real grace. To the point that when you think or talk about the things you used to do, the habits you used to hang onto, the unhealthy relationships you used to have, you don’t feel angry and hateful towards yourself and punish yourself with self-deprecating thoughts, but instead love and accept the person that used to do all of those things, while recognizing you are also no longer that person.
Now when I say “forget,” I don’t mean that we need to pretend that our past didn’t happen, or that we should bury our past, or deny it. I just mean, continuing with what I was saying, we really do need to realize that we are not our past selves, and that there is no need to pretend that we are. So with that comes a level of letting go and “forgetting” the past. If we believe we are made new each day by the blood of Christ, then we should live like we are truly made new each and every day.
So when I say “forget,” what I really mean is “don’t dwell.” We should resolve to use what we can from our pasts as learning experiences for where we are today, in this moment. Our histories are tools to the future, not a means to backsliding into places we’ve already been. The goal is to move up, not down, remember?
3. Perceive your future self as reality.
The more we think and believe that we can and will become the person that we believe God wants us to become, the more we can manifest that person into reality. The more we can mentally build ourselves up and encourage ourselves to new heights, the more we can actually reach those new heights. I listened to a podcast with Elizabeth Gilbert recently who said something like: the greatest people in the world didn’t become the greatest people in the world by talking to themselves like they were the worst in the world. You manifest what you believe, so it’s important we be our biggest cheerleaders.
5. Introduce people to your future self.
Change is much easier when we tell people about it. The climb up the ladder of life becomes less daunting when we have people around us encouraging us upwards, rung by rung. It’s hard for people to do that though, when they don’t know that you’re headed upwards in the first place. So (not to repeat my last post, but) don’t be afraid to tell people about your goals. And don’t be afraid to tell people that you’re working to move on from old ways. Well, be afraid if you must, but don’t let it keep you from doing something about it.
A huge piece of this I’ve found is to let the people who have made it known that they’re on this journey of ascension with you know, the ways that they can best help you. This is especially important when it comes to those that have been in your life for a long time. For family, for example, your past self is all they’ve ever know. So when you resolve to change something about yourself, but they have no idea, they’re bound to treat you like the unchanged self you used to be, and you shouldn’t really expect anything different.
I’ve found personally that I used to get angry with my family. I’d think things like, “Ugh I’ve worked to overcome x and they’re treating me as if I’m still the person I was a few months ago that loved x! They’re making it hard to remember that I’ve already overcome x victoriously and am now thriving doing y to maintain that victory. How dare they!” A friend of mine gently asked me as I was telling her about this, “Well, did you tell your family that you’re working to change that about yourself?” To which I responded, “Oops. Maybe I should do that.” After all, as well as your family does know you, they’re not mind readers.
So change sometimes means difficult conversations. It sometimes means telling family and friends that things they used to say or do are stunting your climb, and that you would appreciate it if they shifted their thinking and consequent actions with you, so that you can move on to become a truer version of yourself. I’ve found that as scary as these conversations can seem on the front end, the results are well worth it on the back end. If they’re really on your side, then they’re happy to help in any way they can.
6. Do the same for others.
If you expect people to build you up and encourage you up this ladder of life, do the same for everyone else, too. As important as it is to treat our own lives with grace and encouragement on this upward climb, it’s even more important to remember that you’re not the only one on this ladder, and you’re not the only one trying to make it to the top (nor do you want to be the only one that makes it to the top. How lonely and boring would that be?!).
As my fav artist Rihanna sings, “I mean who am I to hold your past against you?” (Kidding about the fav artist thing). My point is, if you don’t want people to hold your past against you, then don’t hold other people’s against them. A complete and total letting go of the past and building up of the future should be something you both gift and receive to and from others. Bottom line, treat others the way you wish to be treated. Hey. That should be some sort of universal rule or something…