Do you hold people hostage to their past?

Do you hold people hostage to their last mistake or their worst fault? If you’ve ever been held hostage in such a way, you know it doesn’t feel very good. Are you as bad as the worst mistake you’ve ever made? Of course you aren’t. Are you as bad as your worst shortcoming or inadequacy? No, you’re not.

There’s much more to you than the worst mistake you’ve ever made or the prickliest part of your personality.

Some time ago I saw a poster that captured this idea well. It portrayed a little boy of about six or seven. His hair was disheveled, his T-shirt was soiled, his jeans ripped (not as a fashion statement like they are today), and his shoelaces were untied. He was standing with a baseball bat in his hand looking at the broken window his baseball had just flown through. The caption read: “Please be patient with me. God isn’t finished with me yet.”

There’s a little bit of that boy in all of us. We can all say about ourselves: “Please be patient with me. God isn’t finished with me yet.” This question is aimed at fostering that same kind of patience, tolerance, and kindheartedness toward everyone else.

We in Unity (and in all of New Thought, for that matter) believe that humankind—all of it—is inherently good, not inherently flawed. We believe that the spark of the divine, the God Presence, indwells each and every one of us. We didn’t put it there (God did), and we can’t get rid of it (thank God!). However, we can hide it, ignore it, cover it up, or dumb it down. Nevertheless, it is still there, waiting to be expressed. You are not born in original sin (which is a church teaching, not a Biblical one). You are born in original blessing—in the image and the likeness of God. We all are.

This Truth isn’t a permission slip to stay stuck at our current level of expression, but rather an invitation to give ourselves—and others—plenty of room to grow and change.

And when growth and change do occur, it is time to celebrate! Even the baby steps! That’s what helps us keep going.

Do you hold people hostage to their past? Do you have a good memory for what they didn’t do, the mistakes they made, or where they fell short—but a poor memory for the good they’ve done? My minister friend Robert Stevens says we could take a lesson from a story he read about John D. Rockefeller.

When John D. Rockefeller was CEO of Standard Oil, one of his executives made a colossal mistake costing the company more than $2 million. That day no one wanted to have anything to do with Rockefeller because they all knew his temper. Everyone kept their distance from him except one executive who absolutely had to meet with Rockefeller that day. Though he wasn’t the one who had made the costly error, he was nonetheless prepared to be the target of considerable misplaced anger. When he entered Rockefeller’s office he saw him at his desk scribbling furiously on a piece of paper. Rockefeller looked up and said, “I suppose you’ve heard the bad news.”

The executive said, “Yes. I know we’ve just lost $2 million. I guess you’re going to fire him.”

“Fire him?” Rockefeller questioned. “Definitely not. We’ve just invested $2 million in his education. And I’ve been sitting here all morning reminding myself of his good qualities and the times he’s done well and saved the company money.”

What a powerful lesson for all of us.

When we’re angry and upset—even when it appears justified—our field of vision can narrow so much that we only see the failings, faults and mistakes in the other and not the fullness of who they are. Giving people room to change and grow requires the mature understanding that we are all going to make mistakes from time to time but that we are more than the mistakes we make.

Excerpt from Ask Yourself This!

About the Author

Rev. Wendy Craig-Purcell is a Unity minister and the founding minister and CEO of The Unity Center in San Diego, California. She is the recipient of the Gandhi Nonviolence Award from the Tariq Khamisa Foundation and has been inducted into the Martin Luther King Jr. Board of Preachers. This article is excerpted from her book Ask Yourself This.



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