No, the words aren’t mixed up. This is a quote from one of the best-selling Disney movies of all time. In this scene of The Lion King, Simba is finally confronting his past and choosing to put it behind him.
Pumbaa: It’s times like this my buddy Timon here says: you got to put your behind in your past.
Timon: No, no, no. Amateur. Lie down before you hurt yourself. It’s “You got to put your past behind you.”
In this scene, Simba is finally able to move forward. He attempted to forget his past and refuse to move forward but realizes that this is not only impossible but it’s also denying who he really is, which not only affects him but so many others as well. Anyone who has suppressed who they truly are knows the danger in doing so. Refusing to move forward is allowing the past to define who you are.
Our youngest son came to us when he was 9 years old. He brought with him a rough start to life filled with more disappointments, struggles and hurts than most people face in half their lives and even many in their whole lives. In the 2 years since he’s been our son, we’ve had to work at undoing the damage and catching him up academically, mentally, socially and spiritually.
One prevailing principle in his progress is the idea of learning from the past and then moving on. We deliberately talk often about how he can choose to overcome his past or continue to let it define him and shape his future. With every struggle we encounter, we talk in detail about the choices he made in that particular situation.
We also talk about how he can better handle life’s situations without reacting to them with emotion. Finding more positive choices has helped immensely with his growth and healing process. During our discussions, we ask these 5 questions regularly to help him learn from his mistakes and struggles.
- Did you ask for forgiveness? We make sure he understands that granting forgiveness is not in his control and not really his concern. He needs to do the asking and then be released from it if he is truly sorry. On a related note, we also make sure that he forgives too. He’s very familiar with Ephesians 4:32.
- What can you control? The answer is always “myself.” This gets him to understand that he can and should control his own attitude, actions and words.
- What can’t you control? The answer to this is always “others.” We talk about how you can only control yourself. You cannot control what others do or do not do.
- What could you have done differently? Of course, this is related to the specific situation, but generally it’s a process that helps him understand that while he may not have meant for something to happen, his actions or reactions set the stage for something to happen or somehow made a situation worse. It’s the idea of a ripple effect that we are trying to get him to understand.
- What can you do to control your anger/frustration in the future? We then spend a few minutes talking about ideas, which usually include praying, taking a deep breath, walking away, asking for a break, writing it down and saying scripture in his head. We are trying to give him tools he can use when struggles happen again in the future.
These discussions always include talking about self-control and its importance in addition to going through the above questions. This part centers on building trust, being obedient to authority, and treating others with respect. We then end the discussion with a prayer and “hugging it out.” Our son’s demeanor and attitude almost always change after these discussions (especially if I manage not to lecture too much during them).
If these 5 questions can work for a young boy now nearing his teen years, they can work for you too. Try them the next time you want to “put your behind in the past.” Be intentional about dealing with what happens in life before it becomes a wall that keeps you from moving forward.
DISCUSSION: What techniques have you found effective for teaching your kids to handle struggles? What have you found effective for yourself?