ronniemcbrayer300 brownsKENTUCKY (3/8/14) — One of the more indispensable words of instruction I have ever received came from Dr. Fred Luskin who was head of the Stanford University Forgiveness Project.

He said, “To forgive is to give up all hope for a better past.” What keeps people frozen solid with the regrets and shame of yesteryear, is the lingering optimism that they might go back and change it, according to Luskin.

Forget that, Dr. Luskin says – not the past – but the prospects of adjusting anything that is now in the rearview mirror.

The Apostle Paul said something similar in the New Testament. He made peace with his past and his past self (the self is the hardest person in the world with whom to make peace) with this formula: “Forgetting the past and I press on toward what is ahead.”

Can we really forget the past?

No.

Painful memories, bad choices we have made, ways we have been harmed or harmed others, the heartbreaking losses of offense and betrayal – none of these can be changed. There is no supernatural whitewash for our memory banks or a little recessed button in the back of our skulls that will reboot our brains.

Yet, we can forget the past if forgetting is as Dr. Luskin has defined it; learning to live so that the past no longer controls us. Thus, forgetting is not an act of ignoring our past experiences. It is integrating those experiences with the present. Forgetting the past is not act of erasing our memories. It is an act of hopeful defiance, whereby we keep living, keep moving, and keep keeping on.  

The Chinese have a proverb to this effect. “Break the kettles and sink the ships,” they say. This saying comes from an ancient military battle almost 2000 years ago. A new tribal king came to power and immediately attacked his neighbor, surrounding the city of Julu. The king of Julu called for reinforcements from his generals, and the army came marching to save their king.

But the rescuing generals dragged their feet. They wanted the enemy to wear themselves out; they wanted more time for reconnaissance; they felt they needed to strategize. So the march to save the king became a quagmire as the generals’ strategizing devolved into feasting and drunkenness.

Finally, a junior officer man named Xiang Yu took command. He said, roughly translated to English, “When you go to rescue someone, it is like rushing out to quench a fire. You don’t dillydally, you just go do it.” And that’s what he did. Immediately, he marched his army across the Yellow River to engage the enemy.

Once on the other side, Xiang Yu gave his men three days’ worth of food and supplies and destroyed everything else, including the boats that had brought them across the river, their tents and sleeping mats, their eating utensils, and their cooking kettles. In so doing, Xiang Yu was sending a clear signal to his troops that they had no chance of survival by going backwards. They had to move forward, and they did, rescuing their king.

The way into the future is exactly by this decisive path.

We must do the hard work of feeling the pain of the past so that we might be free from it.

Then the future calls us forward, not because we have forgotten the past, but because we have made peace with the past; and the only way to make that peace is to quit trying to change what is back there. We can’t do anything about it anyway, so we must learn to let it go.

Will we have to let go of some painful memories time and again?

You can count on it.

Will some things from the past haunt us longer than others?

Absolutely.

Will we come to the same river crossing more than once?

It is likely.

But when we do, the choice will always be the same. “Break the kettles and sink the ships.”

Then, one day, the past will be where it belongs: In the past.

Ronnie McBrayer

Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, pastor, and author. His newest book is “The Gospel According to Waffle House.” You can read more at www.ronniemcbrayer.me.

Disclaimer: The content supplied by columnists and letters to the Editor on this site does not in any way, shape or form, implied or otherwise, necessarily express or suggest endorsement or support of any of such content, statement, or opinions therein. SurfKY News does not necessarily adhere to or endorse content provided by outside non-staff sources.

© Copyright 2015 SurfKY News Group, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, or rewritten without permission. SurfKY News encourages you to share this story on social media.

In Other News...

Owensboro Board of Commissioners Commission Meeting March 3

OWENSBORO, Ky. (3/2/15) — The Owensboro Board of Commissioners will hold a Commission meeting at 5 p.m., on Tuesday,… Read More

Eagles Pull off Upset Win, Return to Top in Ninth District

OWENSBORO, Ky. (3/2/15) — Apollo pulled off an upset win and returned to the top of its district with a 61-55 win over… Read More

Most Read This Week

March 02, 2015 8491

Madisonville Teen Faces Numerous Drug Charges

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Madisonville Police Department/Hopkins County Detention Center
February 25, 2015 7874

Multi-Agency Investigation Nets Large-Scale Meth…

in Top News For All Sites by Trooper Stu Recke
February 24, 2015 7682

Two Charged in Central City Meth Bust

in Local (Muhlenberg) Top News by Trooper Stu Recke
February 22, 2015 7532

Easter Cuties Pageant in Memory of Shanice Bean

in Top News For All Sites Touching Hopkins by Tammy Holloway, SurfKY News
February 25, 2015 6227

New Asian Restaurant Coming to Madisonville

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Gary Gates, SurfKY News
February 23, 2015 5491

Fire Departments Respond to Wester's Body Shop

in Local (Muhlenberg) Top News by Shawn Freels

Most Read This Month

February 12, 2015

UPDATE: Name of Pennyrile Fatality Officially…

in Top News For All Sites Touching Hopkins by Doreen Dennis, SurfKY News
February 09, 2015

Police Pursue Man after Fight at Taco Bell

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Madisonville Police Department/Hopkins County Detention Center

Stories Trending Today

March 02, 2015 8491

Madisonville Teen Faces Numerous Drug Charges

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Madisonville Police Department/Hopkins County Detention Center
March 02, 2015 3221

HCSO, MPD Join to Bust Alleged Drug Trafficking…

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Hopkins County Sheriff's Office
March 03, 2015 2861

Three Arrested during Traffic Stop

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Madisonville Police Department/Hopkins County Detention Center
March 02, 2015 2310

Officers Respond to Complaint of Drug Use; Arrest…

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Hopkins County Sheriff's Office/Hopkins County Detention Center
March 02, 2015 1895

Job Fair Tomorrow in Madisonville

in Hopkins News by Kentucky Career Center
March 02, 2015 1742

UPDATE: Escapee Apprehended

in Top News For All Sites by Stu Recke
March 02, 2015 1632

Madisonville Police Arrest Reports - March 2, 2015

in Hopkins News by Madisonville Police Department
March 02, 2015 1374

Locals Flock to Yoga for Unique Wellness Technique

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Doreen Dennis, SurfKY News
March 02, 2015 1373

Dawson Springs Man Charged Multiple Offenses Plus…

in Hopkins News by Melissa Heflin
March 02, 2015 1282

Greenville Police Department Reports Released;…

in Local (Muhlenberg) Top News by Wes Miller