When we look back at our pasts we can feel a variety of emotions, good, bad, indifferent. I won’t speculate on your experience, I will just share my own. When I look back at my past I feel great joy when I remember the areas of great success. In the midst of those great successes also lie broken relationships, missed opportunities, and unanswered questions. The endless barrage of “what ifs” can sway my attention from those successes to the failures that occurred along the way. This has caused me to be less sentimental or introspective, I tend to want to stay in the moment and focus on what’s right in front of me. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but, if you can relate, it’s probably not good either. I couldn’t help but ask myself if I was missing something, maybe I was approaching it the wrong way. Maybe my perspective was skewed.
You see, perspective is an interesting organism. I call it an organism because it's certainly alive but it lacks emotions and is rarely civilized. It can build you up or tear you down at any given moment. Looking back we can all look at areas in our lives where we have progressed, regressed or just gave up on. Perspective leaves no room for neutral ground, it's painfully polarized. There seems to be no gray area; either you grow, you revert, or you quit. Does it have to be? Are we forever doomed to look back at our pasts with this strange array of emotions? If so, is it really worth looking back at all?
What if perspective really isn't the problem? What if the lens through which we view our pasts is actually jaded? Is it possible to cleanse this lens and gain an entirely new perspective?
Deep down we all want to be “winners”. Our desire to succeed causes us to see situations as wins or losses. This mindset is doing incalculable damage to our perspectives. It causes us to be our own personal bookkeepers and when the books are balanced we're often found wanting. We have become slaves to our histories when we should be students of them. Imagine, if you will, instead of tallying wins and losses, we accumulated lessons; lessons that provide wisdom and experiential knowledge to equip us for success. If we begin treating our history like we do those of our heroes it will greatly change the way we view them.
Think about the story of David & Goliath. You aren’t going to find yourself fighting a giant anytime soon (and if you did you'd surely have a more powerful weapon than a slingshot. Incidentally, if you look into it David was actually at an advantage but that further highlights the need for proper perspective, doesn’t it? For more on this check out Malcolm Gladwell’s book David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants) That doesn't mean that we can't pull lessons from this epic showdown. To make this a bit more personal, I will use my own life as an example. For 15 years of my life I was addicted to heroin. I walked a path of intentional self destruction which led me to places that I would much rather forget. I was suicidal, homicidal, and just completely out of my mind. The consequences of my addiction, 3 driving while intoxicated arrests and convictions, landed me in prison for a 1-2 year sentence of which I served 13 months.
Looking back on my time in prison, I can honestly say it was the best thing that ever happened to me. That experience forever changed the trajectory of my life. That very fact is what caused me to challenge my perspective at all. If something so awful could have such a profound impact on my life surely there were lessons I could learn from other perceived failures whatever they might be. I was allowing my past to keep me in fear as if looking back I would remember all the mistakes I made, instead of all the obstacles I was able to overcome, and forfeiting any wisdom I might can in the process. I was a slave to my past.
This shift in perspective has not only changed the way I see my past, it has also changed the way I see others in the present. When I want to write someone off because I think they will never get their life together, I’m reminded that I used to be in that same situation. If I have a disagreement with someone or say something harsh or rude to them, I’m wanting to apologize and seek forgiveness because of the forgiveness extended to me. When I realized that I was free from the slavery of my past, I became a student of it! And you can too! That's when we'll stop counting wins and losses and we’ll start learning. Yesterday's missteps will become obstacles averted tomorrow, yesterday's failure will become tomorrow's success, that ended relationship becomes wisdom used in other relationships, failure becomes fuel for the future, an asset instead of a liability. Challenge yourself, challenge your perspective! Change the way you think then grab your notebooks and learn all you can!
Anthony currently serves as a co-host on The Alliance Podcast at boldcupofcoffee.com and founding pastor at Thrive Church as well as a public speaker and author.
Anthony had a 15 year love affair with heroin addiction and spent time in prison. An encounter with God, one night, radically changed his life. Since that evening Anthony has had a desire and passion to serve the LORD and spread the message of the goodness of God wherever he goes. Using Biblical insight, his experience, and street knowledge, his heart to reach people in all areas of society. Anthony’s desire is to see those in bondage set free from anything that holds them back from all that God has for them and to build people up into the fullness of that purpose, while manifesting the Kingdom of God in their everyday lives.
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