The recent media frenzy over the fates of Peyton Manning and Tim Tebow reminds me of the fleeting and finite aspects of fame. We all want to bask in the moment, but what happens when the moment ends and the reality of finality sets in?
God wants us to move forward. He said so through the words of the apostle Paul, who wrote about “forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead.” The past is not to be relived, only remembered. Reliving your past only enslaves you to it. If you are stuck in the past, how can you ever expect to reach forward to what lies ahead?
People who are slaves to their pasts are easy to spot. Some of the telltale emotional signs are low self-esteem and the pessimism born of a sense of helplessness. Helplessness is a debilitating condition that indicates a lack of control over one’s surroundings and circumstances. Ironically, helplessness is a learned condition that can evolve from early childhood.
Each person desires a feeling of mastery over his or her environment. This sense is an important foundation for emotional development. However, an accumulation of negative events occurring over time persuades many that they are the root cause of these events. Soon helplessness causes some people to react to negative events by thinking, “I’ll never be any good at this,” “People just don’t like me,” “I’m stupid,” and so on.
As life progresses and events unfold, based on a preconditioning of negativity, people allow a sense of futility to become entrenched and a learned pattern of helplessness to take control. Such people will learn to become helpless. If they allow helplessness to propagate as an accepted emotional state, their anxiety and depression can sweep away any good influence, and what lies behind will overwhelm their perspective. The good news is that helplessness is learned, and what is learned can be combated or unlearned.
Psychologically, cognitive therapy, including identifying negative interpretations of events and countering the tendency to imagine the worst, is one approach which can help a person to unlearn helplessness and to reach forward by promoting learned optimism. This psychological approach to remedy learned helplessness is both effective and valuable to many. However, a pure psychological approach may lack permanence in reaching forward to learn optimism. Remember, what can be learned can also be unlearned, and optimism is no exception.
Psychology provides many beneficial solutions to help us overcome a multitude of emotional deficiencies, but as invaluable as psychology is, it does not come with a lifetime warranty. Anyone looking for a lifetime warranty can find one at the center of God’s Word – and that word is grace! Psychology can us get there, but only grace will keep us there.
Resting on past laurels can also encumber your ability to reach forward to what lies ahead. Fame and fortune can lead to infamy and misfortune if you remain content to hang your hat on past accomplishments. Such complacency enslaves you as well. How many great athletes of the past finish their careers on the ash heap of obscurity? I can guarantee you that more than a few do. Being a slave to a personification of what you were ten or twenty years ago is only reliving the past. How many comebacks have we all witnessed that have fallen into futility? I can name several, yet in every one of them the motive was the same: the inability to let go and reach forward. Time passes these people by, just as it does anyone else.
All of us have many things left to accomplish in our lives and many different paths to follow. Each path that we take in life has a beginning and an end. If we come to the end of a path and stay there hoping for it to extend magically, then we may be waiting for an eternity. We should be proud of what we have done in the past, but reach forward to the possibilities of what we can yet accomplish.