The past is never dead. It's not even past. --William Faulkner, “Requiem for a Nun.”
The past is always with us. That past you don’t want to look at and deal with? It is haunting you and shaping you in unimaginable and unconscious ways. You look at your present life and say to yourself “it is what it is” without realizing that what is could have been different—a far more fulfilling life-experience—had you actually dug deeper and dealt with those past events which are still very present and alive. Still could go that way. You still could find deeper meaning and purpose in your life, if you would dig deeper. Most people never do, of course. They prefer closing the door on the painful past. They then redact history so that it justifies and explains their present choices and conditions, and it’s all “God’s Will” or “What is best for me,” or whatever lie helps them to sleep at night. The tragedy is that while the lies protect them from pain they do not protect them from the hollowing out of their souls.
I think that in our I-deserve-to-be-happy culture so many of us short-circuit the process of personal transformation. Rather than taking the time for going deeper, we prefer band-aids and quick fixes. Instead of asking ourselves how we may become more soul-full, we want to know the quickest route to feeling good. We even prefer a religion that sprinkles Fairy Dust on our lives, rather than a faith in the God who will accompany us in and through our pain, guiding us toward a meaningful life.
What I am suggesting here is that when inner conflicts arise we don’t run from them but, rather, embrace them… for more than a few moments! I am not recommending a self-absorption that cripples but a self-reflection that deepens. Don’t be satisfied with the first easy answers or “solutions.” Be still before the mystery of your being, asking yourself such questions as, “Who am I?” “Who and what do I love most?” “What is it I fear most?” “What is it here that I want more than anything else, and what is within my power to accomplish or achieve?”
In reflecting on past conflicts, “What happened, what went wrong (in your perspective)?” “What is it that ‘they’ think happened?” “ “How would I know if my perceptions were mistaken?” “Where could I have acted with more grace and wisdom?” “How is this experience shaping me: my behaviors and beliefs, my attitudes and mindset?” “Have I become more loving and wise or is my heart hardened or even bitter?” “How could I use this experience for my good?” “If there is something I am running away from, what would it be?” “What is it my soul is wanting here?” “Is there anywhere that I am defending my ego, rather than caring for my soul and the souls of others?”
Soul maturation is a lifelong process. Your inner conflicts –where your soul is screaming for attention – is where to begin. Don’t be frightened by the pain: it is telling you that your soul is still alive! Dig in, dig deeper, and then deeper still. Do this and the ever-present past will be used for the good of your soul.
Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2013