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Preparing for the future


Published: 05/12/2012

by Jim Campbell

One of the first tasks that Britain’s wartime Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, had in1940 was to block a movement led by some parliamentar-ians to attack the leaders who hadn’t heeded his pleas to re-arm to counter the rise in power of Germany’s Adolf Hitler. He refused to let it happen. He said, “If the present tries to sit in judgment on the past, it will lose the future.”


The past has the power to cause us to ‘lose the future’. I’m not referring to the claim that if we do not learn from the past, we are destined to relive it. That is sort of true. Yet it assumes we understand the complex forces at play in the past and foresee the outcome of what we do in the present.


Actually, we live our lives in the midst of unexpected consequences. That is why, most of the time – when you find you need to apologize – it’s not for something you intended to happen, but for an unexpected outcome.


For Churchill, meeting the future full-on required that the past, with all its dreariness and messiness, needed to be set aside. After the abuse and ridicule he endured in the pre-war years, it cannot have been an easy task. Yet it was essential in moving forward; there was a nation to be saved, a war to be won.


Getting mired in the past and losing the future is really easy. Life, after all, is not fair or easy. None of us gets by without having our egos knocked about by words said and unsaid. The old adage, ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me’, is not true.


The unfilled expectations, the injuries, the insults, the assaults and the bullying can coalesce into black pools, dragging us down and damaging the future before it arrives.


How we can we prepare for the future? There is a proven way to move ahead, a vital life skill that equips us to face the challenges life presents to every one of us: to forgive.


Okay, I know, that isn’t the instinctive way most people deal with hurts, injuries, meanness, brutal attacks and unrepentant enemies. The voice inside of us screams ideas like ‘fight back, don’t take it, get even, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth’ and for many, a siren voice sings about the beauty of sweet revenge.


Of course, we all know that in the end, our instincts betray us; the voice in us lies. Getting even and having revenge don’t put people in their place; they invariably inspire people to mount a counterattack. Thus it is that family feuds, broken relationships and unreasonable prejudices – and lots of other bad stuff – grow in rich soil. The present can be deeply stained by conflicts, injuries and abuses that happened long ago.


For example, being born a Campbell or a MacDonald, you soon learn we were supposed to be traditional enemies. Why? Well, some of our Highland ancestors were grossly stupid over 300 years ago. It’s ridiculous, but not uncommon.


There seems to be no end to the list of ancient battles, insults and prejudices that still demand to be set right before people can live on the same streets, cross each other’s borders or negotiate ways to move forward. Out instincts betray us, while

forgiveness never does.


Ok. So, does forgiveness change the enemy? It might or it might not. Should the wrong-doer apologize first? Not really,
not often; actually it is highly unlikely.


Can I offer to forgive someone if there is remorse, a promise not to offend again? That’s not forgiveness; it’s like an episode of the game show Let’s Make a Deal. Forgiveness is always a gift that only the injured can give.


By forgiving, you take charge of your life and how you feel; they lose the power to define who you are.


When you don’t add fuel to the fire, the possibility exists for healing of renewed relationships. There’s no guarantee that will happen – some people do not want to be forgiven because then they might lose power over you – but forgiving makes it a possibility.


The neat part of all this, the unexpected by-product, is that forgiveness brings peace in your life. Peace because you cease storing all the hurts and injuries in that deep, dark pool inside and light penetrates where darkness once was.

With that benefit, it is clear that forgiveness is not part of an emergency kit, but it’s a way to live every day.
After all, no one wants to lose the future.  


Jim Campbell is an Oakville-based author and writer. 


Illustration for Home digest by Rui

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