In his letter to the Philippians, Paul made a beautiful statement about forgetting the past. He said, Brethren, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. If Paul had spent most of his time thinking about the mistakes he made in the past, the persecutions he took part in, and had let his mind dwell morbidly on these experiences, he would not have been able to press on to the great challenge before him. That challenge was learning to love and apply the idealistic teachings he had learned from Jesus.
Many people go through life trying to walk down the street backward—they have a fixation on past events. Instead of looking where they are going, they keep looking at where they have been. They keep dragging the past into the present. Since much of the past that they are dwelling on is negative, they experience guilt and frustration. A winner knows that this type of thinking is futile. There is no way that negative thinking about past misfortunes will change those experiences. Regret will not change them, and regret will not prove sincerity in the present. ...
If you really want a new burst of true happiness and enthusiasm for life, then make a declaration of release from the past. Affirm a statement such as this: This one thing I do, forgetting the past and all its glories and mistakes, I go forward to a new life of success and happiness. Set your sights on new possibilities of growth and achievement. We go where our thoughts take us. If we are thinking about things that are over, there is no place to go; and that is just the feeling so many people have. They have no meaning, purpose, or direction for their lives, and they are miserable.
In our better moments of quiet contemplation, we discover something within urging us onward and upward to new experiences. This creative feeling is God's way of telling us He has wonderful new experiences in store for us. It is His way of telling us that growing and developing can be an exciting and happy adventure. He is not concerned about how many mistakes we have made or how bad those mistakes were. He holds nothing against us. We are the ones who hold things against ourselves, not God.
Everyone has made mistakes. Everyone has had failures, some very serious. Just remember this: When you think God is thinking about your mistakes, He is not. Others might be and you might be, but God is not. He is trying to get your attention with new ideas that, when accepted, will improve the quality of living. There is a glorious new life waiting for you, but you will have to let go of the negative thoughts you have about your past so that you can become receptive to this new life. ...
Instead of feeling sorrow for yourself, feel appreciation and joy for yourself. Get excited about your potential. Make some plans for the development of that potential. Even if those plans are small ones, they are important. Accomplishment of small plans leads to accomplishment of bigger plans. Accept this and work with it.
Jesus once told a parable about a pearl of great price. He said a man discovered a valuable pearl in the market one day. He knew it was valuable, and he wanted it so badly that he sold all his possessions so he could raise the capital to purchase that pearl. Selling all that we have does not necessarily mean the selling of our goods. But we must be willing to give up our unproductive and wasteful preoccupations with things around us so that we can concentrate our energies on finding the pearl of great price within us.
It is there, and it is ours for the seeking. Sell those past experiences that you thought were so important to your happiness and invest that thought energy in somethmg new, a pearl of great price.
When we are asked to give up our preoccupation with the past, we often feel that it is a great price to pay, but it really is not. I cannot begin to tell you of the advantages of your new investment of that thought energy. There may be a sense of loss, disappointment, and even sadness when we let go of the past, but that will soon pass along with the past. Then there will be a new surge of joyous and exciting expectations of new adventures, new experiences. Along with this will come the desire to achieve, to succeed, and to win.