A better past

Do not brood over your past mistakes and failures as this will only fill your mind with grief, regret and depression.
Swami Sivananda
1887 – 1963

Rabbi Nehama Benmosche once said, “I have given up all hope of a better past.” I love that thought; there’s so much wisdom in those words. We would all do well to stop and think about what it means to “give up all hope of a better past”.

Like so many others, I’ve spent far too much time trying to create a better past. This effort has ranged from formulating simple, perfect comebacks hours too late to rethinking major, life-altering decisions. I’ve spent hours trying to correct mistakes from childhood. I’ve wasted plenty of time and energy thinking of all the things I could have and should have done differently. But no matter how much effort I put into trying to create a better past, absolutely nothing in my personal history ever changes.

I’ve worked with countless people who constantly dwell on mistakes they’ve made. They always seem to be either explaining, justifying or rationalizing their past behavior. Some even become so paralyzed by the past that they can’t function in the present.

On an intellectual level, I know that no matter how much I think about the past, no matter how many times I replay certain events, the ending will always remain the same. It serves no useful purpose to keep replaying our mistakes–yet we all seem to be slaves to this habit.

How would your life change if you “gave up all hope of a better past”? What if you could just accept everything that’s happened to you? I don’t mean liking all of your past, but simply accepting that what’s done is done; nothing you can do will change your history in any way.

When I catch my mind drifting to some unfortunate experience from my life, I remind myself of that quote. Giving up hope of a better past frees my mind to focus on shaping the events of today.

I’ve come to understand that trying to create a better past mentally traps me in old events and circumstances, and that’s not a healthy way to live. I’d much rather work on creating a better present.

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.
Omar Khayyam
c. 1123

Copyright © 2021 John Chancellor


A better past — 4 Comments

  1. This is such a powerful and inspirational article and brilliant as always. Thank you.
    I have a mantra of ‘no regrets’. Regret is such a waste of energy as you cannot change what happened, as you say. What I can do is put that energy into learning the lesson, looking to the future and ensuring I don’t make the same mistake again.

  2. Rosie,

    Thanks for your kind words and the thoughtful ways you use the concept in your life. I love the mantra, “No Regrets”. Thanks for sharing.


    • David,

      Thanks for your kind words. I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone who did not from time to time try
      to change/relive their past for a better outcome. We should all be more diligent/self-aware and catch
      ourselves when we head down that path. I find the mantra, I’ve given up all hope for a better past” helps me.


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