“In order to move on, you must understand why you felt what you did, and why you no longer need to feel it.” ~Mitch Albom
There are two points that I want to touch on here. One is what I think is the obvious point of what Mitch is trying to say, and that is, in order to avoid our mistakes of the past, we have to understand why we made those mistakes. But perhaps a second, maybe less obvious, result of this wisdom is a couched reminder that you do have to move on, and you cannot continually beat yourself up over your past mistakes.
As humans, we are designed to “move on.” It’s in our nature to grow, progress, mature. “Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth” (Genesis 1:28). And to do so requires that we are not fixated on the past, for we all know that to be living in the past, or constantly fixated on the past, we are neither preparing ourselves for the future, nor wholly engaged in the present.
It is important to understand why we felt what we did, but that is with the assurance and conviction that the “felt” is past tense. That is how I felt before, that is how I once felt. And with the wisdom of hindsight, we are able to see why we no longer need to feel that. The consequences are sometimes just too great.
No matter what mistakes you’ve made in your past (and believe me, I’ve made more than most), you are here and now not that person you were then. For you have at this very moment the choice, yet again, to move still further on – away from that mistake, away from those choices, away from that person you once were. The choice is always before us, which is of course the blessing and the curse. To choose the place of grace, or to fall prey to old weakness, habit, desires, addiction – call it what you will.
Regardless of why you are reading these words, you have something in your past from which you are trying to separate yourself. Whether it’s relatively insignificant or small, or whether it’s been the cause of tremendous trauma in your life, or an act for which you hold great shame, you are here and now wholly different than you were then. Even if only insofar as you are at this moment seeing yourself in juxtaposition to that past, whatever it may be.
So yes, you must understand why what you felt then led to bad choices then (and this does take work, humility, patience, and prayer), but you must believe that forgiveness is possible, even now, and that it’s your duty to move on. And to do so you must see clearly and have clarity, and this clarity is impossible if you cloud your vision with guilt and self-loathing.
There is forgiveness with God, and once you’ve sincerely sought it, it is your task to believe that it is complete. So consider well Mitch Albom’s words. Our ability to move on is indeed tied to our ability to understand our past selves. But equally important, we must remember that we are not our past selves, and we do not need to return to those feelings that led to those choices. This choice is before you right now, just as it’s before me. Every day, every hour, every moment, we must choose between the old hurts, habits, and hang-ups, and the freedom of moving on to the right choice.