Friday, November 2, 2012

Shaped by Our Pasts

I refuse the idea that we are defined by our pasts. Stubbornly. I reject the notion that who I am today is nothing more than a predetermined result of the experiences I've had, the trials that have been put upon me. I am not a victim. We are not victims.

At the same time, those experiences do help to shape who we are. I suppose this is a good thing. After all, it's in the way we push through and survive our trials that we are able to grow and become stronger people. Our experiences and hardships are a part of who we are.

I think my resistance to the whole thing lies in the idea that our pasts have a dictatorial say in who we become. I have a friend who recently wrote about how her parents' divorce made her anxious and instilled a need in her to exert extreme control on her life. I have another who spends so much time bitterly blaming her past that she can hardly see the blessings in her life to move forward. For myself, the crash and burn of some of my recent friendships has made it really hard for me to trust anyone, and very easy for me to cocoon myself in social isolation.

All these things are true. Our lives are definitely influenced by our pasts, Who we are is shaped by our pasts. But I can't leave it there. I just can't.

We still get to choose how we respond to those pasts. We can choose to let go of the control we've convinced ourselves we need to have. We can choose to stop blaming our pasts for every little thing that's wrong in our lives. We can choose to trust, even if we've been hurt before. We get to choose how we respond.

I'm reminded of an experience I had in college. It was an early education class and we were discussing our own childhood experiences. The girl next to me recounted how her parents had divorced and she'd become a second mother to her younger siblings. She was very bitter and angry about this.

It struck me because I had the same experience. My parents divorced when I was 9 years old; my sisters were 6 and 2. Being positive that my dad had no idea how to take care of children and with my mom going back to college, I also took on a 2nd Mom sort of role with my sisters -- only bitterness was the last thing I felt over it. I was glad for the close relationships with my sisters that resulted from the situation. I was grateful for the skills and qualities that had been bred in me through the experience.

Same past. Different choices in how we responded.

We all have that choice. Our pasts do shape us-- but we still get to choose our responses to those pasts.

We get to choose.


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