Present Perfect

by DavalosMcCormack on December 22, 2008

I’ve done some really stupid things in my life. There was one time, when I was living in Germany, when I went to a party with some friends and missed a lift back to the hotel where I was working. Not a big deal under ordinary circumstances.

Unfortunately this was a theme party and I went dressed as a chamber maid. Oh, and I’d shaved off half my beard. And the party was in Munich, forty minutes by train from where I worked. And I’d missed the last train and so had to wait for hours in a coffee shop, dressed as a maid with half a beard, then catch the first train back next morning.
So that happened!

And there are many other moments in my life where things didn’t quite go as planned. Sometimes it was funny. Sometimes painful. But the point is they are all past and there’s nothing to be done about it.

I was reminded of that the other day when I heard a wonderful phrase coined by Dr. Craig Barnes, a Presbyterian minister; “It doesn’t matter what you do or how hard you try – you are never going to have a better past.”

It’s a perfect way of describing what so many of us do, drag the past around with us and let it shape what we do in the present, even what we are going to do in the future.

It’s a silly way to live if you think about it. You are allowing something that happened years ago to stop you doing something today, even if it’s something you really want to do and would make you happy – without hurting anyone else.

The past is important because of how it shapes who we are and where we are, but it does not have to continually shape what we do or how we think. The only power the past has over it is the power we give it.

If we decide to use it as a guide it has some influence on our present and future actions. But if we decide to let it shape everything it becomes a prison, one that traps us inside and prevents us from acting as we truly want.

As we head towards a new year it’s a good time to reflect on the year just past and think about what we let determine how we behave, how we think.

If we are not happy with it the answer is simple. Change. Be who you want to be, not who you were.

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