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If we are bare bones honest, most of us have had painful childhoods.
I realize some experiences are worse, but why quantify the pain at all? Pain shapes us. Pain creates empathy or disdain, compassion or indifference. In truth, we have all had our degree of childhood trauma, and as my own children often remind me, it’s not a competition.
Whether it’s endured through parents or siblings or bullies, strangers or loved ones, economics or society, or the times we live in, it scars our souls. We are all broken. Some of us mend stronger, some weaker, and some not at all.
Some of us cry out into the wilderness, “You are loved, you are loved!” if only to hear it for ourselves. Yet here we are. As parents, we can go either way. We can be hard and unforgiving, hoping to toughen that child up for the harsh world; we know what lurks beyond our front doorstep.
We can become watchmen, trying to guard against any bump in the road, any unpleasant experience—a superhero parent…our child’s knight in shining armor. We may be a mix of these, not quite sure which is better, but we must do something.
It’s a choice. Although nothing is also a choice, but that’s just indifference in another costume; deep down, we know the child sees this as complicity in the transgression. It’s a choice, and as a parent, or even as a friend, these are all bad.
Instead, as a parent or a friend, we could cultivate an environment that is one of respect and honesty. An environment of trust that embodies the concept that I will never intentionally hurt you; if I do, you can let me know and I will acknowledge you. I cannot fix every situation, but I am listening and will be a shoulder to lean on. Resolve to be there, side by side with others.
Don’t try to fix them or carry their load, as it leads you to the false assumption that you or someone else can do the same for you. It’s a trap that keeps us all treading water in a toxic cycle.
As the grown children of painful childhoods, we can resolve to understand that no one is going to fix the past. There may be lessons, and there may also be no lessons at all in the past. It can and will shape us to the extent we allow. It’s a choice. And in this case, there are some good choices.
We can view today as the starting point in our journey. It’s a new chapter or a whole new book. I know this is easier said than done, but like many things, once a firm decision is made, it may be easier than it first appeared. Going forward, leaving the past in the past is not saying it didn’t happen, or it didn’t matter.
Use the ultimate “and now.”
I had this thing happen to me, and now, today, I am here doing this, living this way, because I chose to. Everything that comes after “and now” matters more; it’s more relevant. It’s relevant because that is where we choose to put emphasis.
Everything after “and now” can bring joy and fulfillment in your now. “And now” matters most of all—2022 is a new chapter, a new book, a great time to create your personal “and now.” Put emphasis there.
“And now” doesn’t require you to forgive or analyze—only to resolve to leave the past. We don’t even need to “leave the past behind” because it is already behind us, so choose not to dwell in it. It deserves no more of your effort or attention.
You do deserve joy, love, and happiness. You already know none of those are found in the painful moments of your life.
Your pain does not have to be big or small; we are not keeping score. If no one has said this to you, it matters because it mattered to you.
And now you are so much more than that.