Yesterday was what it was. Or was it?
If your memory is like mine, I can’t remember where I parked my car an hour ago. How can I possibly think that my memories from a year ago – or a decade ago – are accurate?
Next question: How much weight do memories of past events color your present relationships and viewpoints?
I don’t know about you, but as I thought about that for myself, something inside me went…flooop.
With some necessary humbleness, I confess there have been times when I’ve carried more than my weight in animosity toward certain individuals who – as they’d say in the Old West – done me wrong. Some of their actions were undeniably nasty, even when taking a faulty memory into account. But did their nastiness justify my present-day bitterness?
Maybe I contributed to the situation back-when more than I realized. Let’s hope whatever it was, that I’d handle myself better today than I have in previous years. I’d like to think I’ve learned something along the way.
And perhaps, just perhaps, they have, too.
While not every situation calls for a ‘let bygones be bygones’ approach, far more qualify for it than don’t.
For those that do qualify, the need for the bygones approach is especially evident when I’ve allowed a past experience or person to affect how I view other similar but unrelated situations and people today.
Not all car salesmen are slimy. Not all leaders need remedial classes. Not all exes deserve the finest in paybacks.
Former friends, colleagues or family who let us down or betrayed us once made our lives better for being in it. Whatever the reason for their more negative action, we can’t allow it to color every relationship we encounter going forward. We need to remember the good times we had with them, learn from the bad, and know that new relationships don’t automatically carry the same destiny within them.
Whether or not amends can or should be made with people in our past, we’re able to look at our own past behavior and see how we might handle it differently now. In that way, we can use a less than ideal past experience to positively affect our present relationships. It might help us listen closer and interpret less. Clarifying misunderstandings right away goes a long way toward diminishing long-term conflicts.
Sometimes what we heard wasn’t what was said. And sometimes what wasn’t said, truly wasn’t said. It’s way too easy for many of us, myself included, to create a message where none existed.
As we go into the blank canvas of a new year, let’s let our future speak well of our past.
This column first appeared in NurseTogether