Put Your Behind in the Past

Lion King

In this scene, Simba finally moves forward after attempting to forget his past. He realizes forgetting is not only impossible, but doing so denies who he is as well as holds impact well beyond himself.

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 a lifetime. In the six years since he’s been our son, we’ve worked to undo the damage and bring him to a place of continued forward growth academically, mentally, socially and spiritually.

future-or-go-back-221x300One 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 let it define him. With every struggle we encounter, we talk in detail about the choices he made in that particular situation and how he can make adjustments for future decisions.

We also talk about how he can better handle life’s situations without reacting and letting emotion control him. Finding positive choices helps him grow and heal. These 5 questions help immensely in that process.

  1. Did you ask for forgiveness? While granting forgiveness remains out of his control, asking begins the healing process. Related, we also make sure that he forgives where needed too, and we reference Ephesians 4:32 in that discussion.
  2. What can you control? The answer is always “myself.” This brings understanding about focusing on controlling his own attitude, actions and words.
  3. What can’t you control? The answer to this is always “others.” You can only control yourself, not others.
  4. What could you have done differently? This question 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. The idea of a ripple effect is crucial for growth.
  5. What can you do to control your anger/frustration in the future? We then spend a few minutes discussing ideas, which usually include praying, taking a deep breath, walking away, taking a break, journaling and quoting scripture. Having tools he can use when struggles happen again is crucial to prevent repeating the same mistakes.

These discussions with our son also include talking about self-control and its importance, and we focus on how he can build trust through respect and obedience. We then end the discussion with a prayer and “hugging it out.”

Over the past six years, these questions have become automatic not just for addressing issues with our teenage boys but for tackling the struggles in our own lives. They provide an intentional way to Put Your Behind in the Past and allow you to learn the value of Going Backward So You Can Move Forward.

DISCUSSION: What techniques do you have for learning from your mistakes?

19 thoughts on “Put Your Behind in the Past

  1. Guilt from the past is something that the enemy loves to bring up. It can keep us crippled and ineffective in the present and in the future. For me, I've rarely had a problem learning from my mistakes. I'm pretty good at seeing how I could have done things differently. My main problem is letting go of the past. I keep mulling things over in my mind, playing what-if scenarios. I've had to learn to really focus on the present and just let the past be the past.

    • Oh my, I sure to get what it means to constantly mull things over and play what-if scenarious. Takes a lot of discipline and deliberately focusing on what is good, right, true, etc. When I teach my boys about letting go of the past and learning from it, it's a lesson for myself every time too!

  2. I love this post Kari! As an overcomer myself, I know the value of DEALING with, and then moving on from your struggles. To ignore them doesn't work…they pop back up later. I am so thankful that your son has a smart caring mom to love him now. Praise the Lord!

    • Thanks Kelly! Ignoring definitely doesn't work, and he is learning to talk about his feelings more to allow us to help him work through them. He always feels better when he does. What's interesting is how this topic has come up multiple times just since this post yesterday. Maybe there's a lesson I need to learn in this too!

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  6. On this subject, I am completing a historical study of the OT with my bible study group. We forget that the historical narrative from Genesis through Kings Nehemiah was written well after the fact as a way to look back on the ramshackle past of the families of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Israel), who entered Egypt and then found their way back to their homeland, yet in the end lost it all. The writers in the post exile period tried to explain the mistakes of their ancestors as a warning to future generations to encourage them back to foundations of God's basic laws (Decalogue Truths). Even the NT reveals Jesus tried to remind the hardhearted Jewish leaders in Jerusalem that they too were repeating the past of the forefathers in Judah and Israel. Recalling and learning from our past is a God given gift to keep us closer to him. Whenever we wander too far, the Decalogue Truths, also known as the Ten Commandments, should anchor us from drifting too far as long as we confess to know the author. Think there's a book in that thinking…

    • I've studied God calls his people to remember as a way for moving forward in a better way. It's very powerful to realize this pattern in Scripture. It was for me anyway. You're right… it would make a great book!

  7. Very good questions for all of us, no matter our age or situation. Thanks for sharing this with all of us. We are never too old to learn something new. God Bless.

  8. A most excellent post Kari. I was channeling my inner Bill & Ted. 🙂 Those are some great questions! I think I see more and more people who are chained to their past and have allowed it to define them.
    My recent post Snapshot

    • Been a long time since I watched that movie! You're right in that many people are chained to their past & let it define who they are today. It takes a very deliberate approach to learn from the past and apply it in a way that positively shapes the future. Won't happen by accident.

  9. Kari,
    We are made in the image of our past; of what we have struggled with; with what hardships we endured: with what our triumphs were. We also have to learn with it all; the good; the regrets; the losses; the victories. They all weave a tapestry of who we are. With God's help we don't have to let it control how we live our life forward. I do know some of the things I hate that I went through I know they have made me a better person for going through the struggle and coming through it. It puts me in a position to help others who struggle; allows me to be compassionate towards those that fail and allows me to rejoice with those that overcome.
    While I wish I could erase some things from my past I know they can affect my future I just have to work to make sure that that impact is positive.

  10. Kari, this is very good. We have two special needs adopted siblings, but their reaction/responses to things is quite different and they have trouble understanding in different areas. We've followed a similar line of questioning and discussion, but sadly not always. It's so beneficial! Great reminder. Oh and I'm constantly amazed how our son who came to us at 15 months old still struggles and deals with things in his past he cannot even remember. It's humbling. It's frustrating. But we all rely on His grace! Thanks Kari.

    • Thanks, Jason. It is so hard to be consistent when our kids struggle, especially when we get emotional. At least that is my struggle. But, consistency is my goal. My son is special needs too, but he looks normal on the outside (to teachers, other students, etc.). Humbling, definitely. Frustrating, a lot. Grace is SO necessary.

  11. great questions, I will certainly be using them with my 5 year old. he’s always been so obedient but this year in pre school he has watched other kids misbehaving and he realized he has a choice…and sometimes he doesn’t want to follow rules. now we are teaching him that there are consequences to breaking rules but there is always grace and love from God and us. your questions will help us teach him. thanks for sharing.

    • The definitely have proved helpful to us in the past 6 years, and they are continuing to do so as my boys go through their teen years. I'm so grateful for every opportunity to teach my kids while they are under my and my husband's protection and before they are in the world on their own!

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