A journey of personal progress, though heavy with fulfillment, often temps us to look back with contempt and resentment. As we make changes that propel us toward the person we want to be, the person we were can end up not only getting left behind, but blamed for the pain we sat in for so long. We find ourselves saying things like “I am not the person I was before.” Phrases like these definitely serve a validating purpose, and demonstrate that the changes we’ve made have been effective. But I wonder sometimes about the risks of choosing to dissociate with a previous self. It feels freeing to leave our painful past behind, but our truest selves should be something we bring with us. The person and the pain are not one and the same; it’s possible to leave the pain bit bring with us the person who felt it, who fought through it, and who learned from it.
Our scars are our trophies. They are symbols of each battle victory, and they are valuable. To leave the battered person behind is maybe to tell her that she’s too damaged for the future, as if her scars somehow devalue or disqualify her. As we progress and better understand the happiness we’ve been missing out on, the temptation to resent our past intensifies. We may even begin to resent her for keeping us from the contentment we are having to work so hard to now discover and obtain. She will always be a part of us somehow, so we hide and imprison her in our past, condemning her to the pain we felt there and punishing her with feelings of resentment and contempt, as if that somehow evens the score.
But this is a battle between ourself and ourself. Every injury inflicted upon one is felt by the other. If we treat her as if she is not deserving of progression, we will never truly believe that we are, either. If with every wound that heals, we send another lash to the unforgiven sufferer, we will find ourselves in a perpetual pattern of pain.
We must forgive our past self. For the pain she caused, for the pain she felt, and for the pain she accepted. Don’t ask her to hold it all. Show her how to put it down, take her hand, and lead her into the future that she inspired you to create. Show her that she is forgiven and that peace is as accessible to her as it is to you, and that she is no less deserving of it. Dress her wounds and bandage her injuries. She is the one to whom we owe our gratitude. She carries the wounds acquired by fighting deep in the trenches. She is beaten, broken, and bruised. Her face is tearstained and bloodied, her knees are black and blue; she’s covered in dirt and drenched in sweat and wears the scars of a frontline warrior. She has fought hard for the happiness you are not able to discover, and for that she should be honored.
We can find new healing as we find new compassion for ourselves. We can accept compassion and forgiveness from those around us more readily. Freedom from pain is found in full by shaking off the chains of contempt and unlocking the prison of resentment. Here we can reach a new level of peace.