What if you could remember your past without shame or guilt? Imagine the freedom of learning from your mistakes, regrets and failures without feeling ashamed or guilty. How light your day, how easy your night, and how joyful your moments!
“Memory is frequently the bond slave of despondency,” writes C.S. Spurgeon in Morning & Evening: A Devotional Classic for Daily Encouragement. “Despairing minds call to remembrance every dark foreboding in the past, and dilate upon every gloomy feature in the present; thus memory, clothed in sackcloth, presents to the mind a cup of mingled gall and wormwood. There is, however, no necessity for this.”
If you’re like me (and the majority of people!), you beat yourself up for past mistakes, failures and regrets. For instance, one of my most popular pet-related articles is dealing with guilt after a dog’s death. I’ve written countless relationship articles about coping the feelings of shame and guilt. In this post, I offer tips on how to remember the past without feeling ashamed or guilty about your choices — including your failures, bad choices, and regrets.
Let’s go back to Spurgeon’s words for a moment. He said depression and despair are the result of memory. In other words, when we remember the dark moments of the past, we feel gloomy and depressed. Ashamed and guilty, sad and upset, ugly and bad.
And that’s exactly what the deceiver wants. The prince of darkness wants us to sit in shame and guilt, to remember our past failures and faults, to feel shame and guilt for every misdeed and misstep. That’s the bad news.
The good news? So much good news, I can hardly stand it!!! Come, let us dance freely in the light…
3 Tips for Remembering the Past Without Shame or Guilt
These tips on taking the lessons of your life and move boldly into the future apply to all situations, whether you’re feeling guilty about a choice you made or ashamed because of something someone did to you.
The most important thing to remember is that you get to choose to remember your past in a specific way. You can decide to dwell on the gloom and doom, or the hope and light. The choice is yours.
Remember your past with the brain you had then
Whatever the failure, regret, mistake or bad choice — you did it because of what you knew and thought back then.
Let’s just call it a Bad Choice; you can fill in the blank with your own past mistake. You made the Bad Choice because of the circumstances you were in, the resources you had, and the thoughts you knew. Perhaps you would’ve made a different decision now, in hindsight.
That’s how you learn, grow, and move forward! You make mistakes and you learn from them. You become wise only if you actually change your behavior. If you sit in shame and guilt when you remember the Bad Choice of your past, then you aren’t being wise. You’re being foolish. You’re playing the deceiver’s game, and you’re losing out on all that is good, pure, light and holy. And it’s all your fault.
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Use the brain you have now
Back then, with the brain you had then, you made a Bad Choice. But now you have a different brain. Your brain has learned and grown, matured and maybe even flourished. It would’ve be the sharp brain it is now if you hadn’t made that Bad Choice. That Bad Choice actually helped you become smarter and wiser! Maybe. Unless, of course, all you do is remember your past with feelings of shame and guilt. Then you’re not getting any smarter. You’re just getting older.
If you know Jesus, you have the added amazing miraculous benefit of forgiveness. Not only has He forgiven your failures, regrets, mistakes and Bad Choices, He deems it sinful for you to feel ashamed and guilty for remembering your past in unhealthy, unholy ways. Isn’t that something? You are called to forgive yourself — because if you don’t forgive yourself, you’re holding on to something Jesus forgot long ago. If you hold on to your Bad Choice, you are making yourself the god of your own life. And you, my friend, are no god.
Make a smart choice and stick to it
“Wisdom can readily transform memory into an angel of comfort,” writes Spurgeon in Morning & Evening: A Devotional Classic for Daily Encouragement.
“That same recollection which in its left hand brings so many gloomy omens, may be trained to bear in its right a wealth of hopeful signs. She need not wear a crown of iron, she may encircle her brow with a fillet of gold, all spangled with stars.”
How about that? Instead of remembering the past with shame and guilt, why not allow yourself to be comforted by your memories? Imagine star-spangled memories, peaceful recollections, joyful remembrances of times past. Wouldn’t that be something?
Pick up the power
You have the power to choose how you will remember the past. You can keep slogging along in the pit of despair. You can trudge through the despair of feeling ashamed and guilty, the hopeless gloom of your mistakes, regrets, failures and Bad Choices. You can drown in the darkness with the deceiver, suffocate in the lies and deceptions.
Or, you can pick up Jesus’ light saber! Step into His river of life, His rushing waters of cleansing, His beauty, joy and peace. You can fight the darkness — you can learn how to remember the past without feeling ashamed or guilty. It can be as fast and simple as imagining yourself in a rushing river of cleansing forgiveness, or as slow and steady as working through your guilt and shame with a trusted mentor, coach or counselor.
Will it be easy for you to start remembering the past without feeling ashamed or guilty? I don’t know. You tell me, in the comments section below.
How to Remember the Past Without Shame or Guilt
In Lazarus Awakening: Finding Your Place in the Heart of God, Joanna Weaver shares the story of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus in a fresh way.
Open your heart to the truth that you are cherished — apart from anything you accomplish, apart from anything you bring. Just as He called Lazarus forth to new life, Jesus wants to free you to live fully in the light of His love, unhindered by fear, regret, or self-condemnation.
Joanna also wrote the perennial bestseller, Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World.
If your spouse’s bad choices, failures and weaknesses are a source of shame and guilt in your marriage, read 6 Ways to Deal With Your Husband’s Past Secrets.
What do you think about my tips on how to remember the past without feeling ashamed or guilty? Your thoughts – big and little – are welcome below! I read every comment, but don’t worry: I won’t give advice or tell you what to do. It’s your turn to talk.
“Prayerfully rake the ashes of the past, and you will find light for the present.” – Spurgeon.
Laurie's "She Blossoms" Books
Growing Forward When You Can't Go Back offers hope, encouragement, and strength for women walking through loss. My Blossom Tips are fresh and practical - they stem from my own experiences with a schizophrenic mother, foster homes, a devastating family estrangement, and infertility.
How to Let Go of Someone You Love: Powerful Secrets (and Practical Tips!) for Healing Your Heart is filled with comforting and healthy breakup advice. The Blossom Tips will help you loosen unhealthy attachments to the past, seal your heart with peace, and move forward with joy.
When You Miss Him Like Crazy: 25 Lessons to Move You From Broken to Blossoming After a Breakup will help you refocus your life, re-create yourself, and start living fully again! Your spirit will rise and you'll blossom into who you were created to be.