Who among us has never done something that is regretted later? Who has never said an unkind word about someone or to someone? Who has never gossiped or spread untrue rumors? Who has never deliberately inflicted hurt or pain on another in a moment of high emotion? Who has not made some life choices that turned out in retrospect to be destructive to one person or another? Who has not violated written or unwritten moral codes at one point?
Would that all could live without some sorrow over the past. Is it possible to do that?
Yes and no. It is possible if the sorrow leads to greater illumination about ourselves. It is not possible if the sorrow only leads to blaming others for those choices made.
It’s the human tendency to want to blame others. No one has to teach a child this—they seem to figure it out all on their own. “But Mom, he/she started it!” That’s the universal mantra of young children. It’s someone else’s fault. They started it—so that relieves me of any responsibility to stop it or return good for evil. They started it, so I get to continue it. They started it and I continue it and the cycle just keeps going on and on and on. Blaming never, ever leads to self-illumination. That is one fact of life we can all hang our hats on. It just perpetuates the problem.
But what happens when we make the hard effort to stop the blaming and seek to shed some light on ourselves instead? This doesn’t mean going into some “woe is me” pity party. It does mean recognizing that all of us make mistakes, some major with perhaps worldwide repercussions, some minor that may only affect a small circle. But we all make them. All of us. No one gets excluded from this one.In that recognition, and in the time taken to look carefully at ourselves, we are invited to a place of real liberation. Blaming others leaves us helpless, for all circumstances are the fault of others and we can’t do anything about it. But a careful look at our own mistakes gives us the chance to learn and gain strength and confidence for the future.
It’s not easy to do this. It is often painful to say, “Wow, I really blew that one. I can’t believe I did that, or acted like that or said that.” Sometimes the pain seems too much to bear, and we want to retreat to blaming others to take the pressure off. But if we go there, and if we go there knowing that God both forgives and redeems—God lets it go and changes it to something far better—then we come out with renewed hope.
I say it often that one of my favorite verses in the Bible is from the very, very sad book of Lamentations where the prophet, after agonizing over all the bad things happening ends up saying, “God’s mercies are new every morning.” I love that phrase, “new every morning.” It gives me hope. It reminds me that in the eyes of God, it all gets wiped clean. When I can learn about myself from that “wiped clean” experience, I can then turn around and offer to others the option of also being “wiped clean.”
As my congregation often hears from me, the “grand do-over” is always an option for us Christians. And in the “do-over,” that sorrow and regret over past mistakes turns to future hope and thanksgiving. This is the only way I know to live without sorrow over the past: face it, learn from it, stop blaming others, and receive the “do-over” grace that God keeps offering.
Thank you, Jesus.