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?


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?


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

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. your social media marketing partner

LIKE SurfKY on Facebook - Click here to LIKE us now.

© 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.

Stock Report Sponsored by

In Other News...

Webster County Traffic Advisory

WEBSTER COUNTY, Ky. (11/27/15) — The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet plans to close a section of Kentucky 1063 in… Read More

Webster County Man Injured in Two-Vehicle Crash

UNION COUNTY, Ky. (11/27/15) — According to a Kentucky State Police report, on Nov. 26, 2015 at approximately 6:10… Read More

Most Read This Week

November 24, 2015 10192

Distillery to Operate in Old Graham School…

by SurfKY News
November 21, 2015 8881

Injuries Result from Beulah Road Accident

by Doreen Dennis, SurfKY News
November 23, 2015 7742

Relative Charged with Murder, Arson in Deaths of…

by SurfKY News
November 24, 2015 4833

Ohio County Most Wanted - Top 10 - November 24

by SurfKY News
November 24, 2015 3412

Man Injured When Vehicle Collides with Deer

by SurfKY News

Most Read This Month

November 17, 2015 16263

Ohio County Most Wanted - Top 10 - November 17

by SurfKY News
November 18, 2015 14570

Runaway Teen Returns on His Own

by SurfKY News

Stories Trending Now

November 27, 2015 2949

Madisonville Man Charged with Attempted Murder…

by SurfKY News
November 28, 2015 2418

Woman Charged with Counterfeit Money Leads to…

by SurfKY News
November 28, 2015 2180

Local Teen Hospitalized after Officer-Involved…

by Doreen Dennis, SurfKY News
November 28, 2015 1664

KSP Arrests Ohio Co. Man on Drug Charges

by SurfKY News
November 27, 2015 1570

First United Bancorp Set to Purchase Town &…

by SurfKY News
November 27, 2015 1132

Farm City Breakfast Recognizes Importance of…

by Tammy Holloway, SurfKY News
November 27, 2015 1085

Hooked on Science - Pinecone Hygrometer

by SurfKY News
November 27, 2015 832

Webster County Man Injured in Two-Vehicle Crash

by SurfKY News
November 27, 2015 655

Governor-Elect Bevin Names Two Key Appointments…

by SurfKY News