So, I already ascribe to the theory that it does no good to “should on yourself”. Saying I should’ve done this or should’ve done that doesn’t do anyone any good. However, recently God has been reminding me that not only do I need to watch the “shoulding”, but I also need to watch the “if onlys”. If only this would have happened, if only that would not have happened, if only I had this or that, if only…, - then I could be happy. Yes, there is trouble with the “if onlys” too.
The trouble with the IO’s (if onlys), is that they are way too similar to the IOU’s. We start to believe that someone or something “owes” us. Our parents owe us a different past, our husband owes us a more loving disposition, our children owe us more respect, our boss owes us more money, God owes us happiness and joy, and IF ONLY we had what people OWED us, we could be happy! But until then, we just choose to dwell on the things we are waiting for. And even though we know the past is the past, and there is nothing we can do to change it, we often still feel like we are owed some sort of compensation for damages. Especially if we have had something to do with the hurt and pain in our past, then we may feel like we owe ourselves a life of misery, and we might refuse to forgive ourselves. If we refuse to forgive ourselves, we could fall into the cognitive distortion that maybe we can punish ourselves enough for our past mistakes that the pain will go away.
Not so! IO’s are a dangerous trap. Satan knows that we cannot change our past, but if he can keep us caught in the “if onlys”, then we will spend forever trying. Maybe it is time that we gained some freedom from our past, forgiving those that have hurt us, but most of all forgiving ourselves. It may be an awful past, filled with all kinds of abuse and wrongness and nasty ickyness and hurt and pain. So it is what it is. No amount of ruminating or replaying the situation out in your mind is going to change it. But, you can ask God to give you peace with things, and freedom from the bondage past hurt can cause. However, if our focus on the past only continues to keep us trapped, we become paralyzed, and unable to see what God has for the future.
Every day we have a choice, a choice to forgive ourselves, again, and to forgive others, again. A choice to believe that the grace God offers us is new every morning, and that his grace is enough. A choice to enjoy the day that he has given us. A choice to let his spirit and his light within our hearts outshine the past. Forgiveness, it absolutely cannot change the past, but absolutely can move us past the past.