How to Heal Your Past and Empower your Future

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When I was a young adult, I took a piece of art to be framed. I picked out one I liked and they worked up an estimate. I was shocked. The frame cost six times what the artwork did.

The frame is sometimes worth more than the picture it houses. That’s especially true of painful events in our past.


It was what it was

One of my hospice co-workers has a sign above her desk that reads, “It is what it is.”


Things were what they were. Growth comes when we choose to live in reality and deal with things as they were and are, not as we would wish them to be.

Past wounds are like haunting pieces of art. The image is what it is. Disturbing, frightening, or ugly – the picture doesn’t change.

The frame, however, can be changed at any time. What frame we choose (how we decide to think about that wound now) can make all the difference.


Wounds happen, even on Holy Week

Good Friday and Easter aren’t pleasant for everyone.

Maggie lost her husband this time last year. “Easter is about life, but to me it’s become synonymous with death,” she said.

Steven has similar feelings about Good Friday. “I was mocked, beaten, and locked in a closet as a kid. I felt so helpless. The crucifixion reminds me of that helpless terror.”

As a child, Samantha was ritually sexually abused – and the worst was around Halloween and Easter. “Honestly, I hate this time of year,” she shared.

These conversations reminded me of some important facts:

  • People are hurting
  • Soul wounds can occur anytime, anywhere.
  • Evil doesn’t take holidays.


Constructing new frames

I’m a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. During the acute phase of flashbacks, everything seemed painful, dark, and overwhelming. Grief was my constant companion.

As I began to heal, I changed the frame. The sexual abuse didn’t change, but how I thought about myself and life did:

  • I chose survivor over victim.
  • I began to be thankful for the evil that didn’t happen instead of focusing on the evil that did.
  • I embraced struggles with anxiety and fear as part of the healing process.
  • I chose to be honest about what happened rather than hiding and being tortured by shame.
  • I found ways to serve and encourage other survivors.
  • I exchanged surviving for overcoming.

This wasn’t easy. Healing is painful and messy. I tripped, fell, and failed time and again. Left to myself, it would’ve been a disaster. But good people showed up – solid friends, safe people, and a gifted counselor. Real healing is always a team effort. None of us can do it alone.

My team helped me begin to construct those new frames.


We get to choose

Anything can trigger memories and propel our past into the present. But we can be proactive. We can be ready.

When the trigger hits:

  • Stop.
  • Take a deep breath.
  • What’s really happening here?
  • What kind of frame do you want to put on it?

Yes, you get to choose. For example:

  • “Oh, no – not again!” can become, “Interesting. How can I turn this around?”
  • “This makes me angry!” can be transformed into, “How can I express my anger in a healthy way?”
  • “I hate this time of year!” can become, “How can I make these days work for me?”
  • “I hate feeling this way!” can morph into, “Ah, the old stuff is getting out of my system. What do I want to replace it with?”


A frame for the future

We all want the future to be a certain way. Then something happens that messes with our plan. We have to adjust our hopes and dreams – again.

How we frame the future fuels our today.

I invite you to join me and envision the future. The canvas is being painted before your eyes. Don’t focus on the picture, but on the frame. You get to choose what is written there.

Here are the words I choose to write:

  • Healing
  • Growth
  • Love
  • Service
  • Difference-making
  • No matter what

Yes, the frame is often worth more than the picture it houses. Choose well, my friend.

Question: What words will describe your future?

Forgiveness – It May Not Be What You Think

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“I’ve got some unfinished business.”

I first heard this in a movie many years ago. Make things right by getting even. Exact our own version of justice based on our view of what happened. Do to others as they’ve done to us.

And we wonder why things aren’t going well.

Cain’s Ugly Legacy

Unfortunately, there’s some of Cain in all of us.

His story is in the first book of the Bible. His brother Abel brought God his best. Cain brought a bit of what he thought he could spare. The quality of their offerings revealed the state of their hearts.

God accepted Abel’s offering, but not Cain’s. Cain got mad, and decided to get even.  He gave in to his rage and murdered his brother.

Apparently Cain viewed life as a competition, and he had lost. He blamed Abel for his own failure. He chose to see God’s rejection of his offering as God’s rejection of him.

Cain’s legacy has played out in history repeatedly. Murder, character assassination, vigilante justice, self-condemnation, suicide, and gossip – the list goes on and on. Our track record of dealing with past wounds isn’t pretty.

The Past Can Infect the Present

Most of us have something hanging out there unresolved:

  • a deep wound from the past
  • a relationship gone wrong and never put right
  • words and actions we wish could be erased
  • profound disappointments and shattered dreams

These things greatly affect our present lives. They leak out onto all our relationships. Unresolved pain becomes unwanted baggage that weighs us down more than we realize.

Compassion – The Greatest Revenge

Thankfully, there are answers.

Take a deep breath. Listen to this from the New Testament:

Be kind and compassionate, forgiving one another…

“Compassion is the greatest revenge,” says my friend, author, and fellow sexual abuse survivor Cecil Murphey. Compassion is how we turn the tables on evil, and how we release our own hearts to heal. Part of compassion is forgiveness.

What Forgiveness is, and isn’t

Forgiveness isn’t saying that it didn’t matter. Forgiveness is saying it did matter, it hurt, and I will not let it control my mind and heart any longer.

Forgiveness isn’t the same as forgetting. Forgiveness is choosing to let go of the pain so healing can begin.

Forgiveness isn’t just about releasing the other person, but also about freeing the real prisoner – ourselves.

Forgiveness isn’t evidence of weakness or being a doormat. Forgiveness is refusing to be controlled by the words, attitudes, and actions of others.

Forgiveness isn’t the same as trust. We need wisdom to know how deeply to engage with those who’ve hurt us.

Why Un-forgiveness Hurts Only Us

Refusing to forgive keeps past pain alive and gives it power in the present. When our now is cloaked in the shadow of the past, we can’t fully taste the good around us.

Un-forgiveness hurts only us, and by extension, those we love.

The Vicious Cycle of Hurting and Being Hurt

As long as we live in this world, we’ll get hurt. We’ll hurt others. Most times this happens innocently and unintentionally. Selective hearing, misunderstandings, and negative interpretations are part of everyday life on this planet.

We can sigh and wish it were different.  Or we can take life as it is and deal with it.

Forgiveness must replace bitterness and revenge.

Forgiveness must become more than an act of the will toward isolated incidents.

Forgiveness must become a priority skill we intentionally develop.

Forgiveness must become the atmosphere is which we do life, the very air we breathe.

Forgiveness is Freedom

Compassion becomes the best revenge because the pain influences us less and less over time. We begin to taste true freedom. We look less in the rearview mirror and gaze more through the windshield.

Kindness, compassion, and forgiveness have always been essentials for healthy hearts. They form the foundation of what it means to love others.

Simply put, forgiveness is freedom. And it tends to be contagious. Imagine the potential ripple effect of each individual act of forgiveness. Maybe peace on earth begins with a single choice today. Peace of mind and heart certainly does.

Here’s to making forgiveness our new atmosphere.

Oh yeah – this includes forgiving ourselves too.

It’s never too late.


Question: Why do you think forgiveness is so hard sometimes?

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