“Forgiving does not erase the bitter past. A healed memory is not a deleted memory. Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future.”   ―     Lewis B. Smedes

This weekend I went to a multi-year class reunion.  It was great to see some people I haven’t seen in a really long time.  We revisited some crazy times we had and we talked about our lives now.  In the midst of all the fun, frivolity and pictures of our kids, I also had a few thoughts.

As most people on Planet Earth, there are things that happened in those years of teenage angst of which I’m not terribly proud.  Choices that weren’t wise. Decisions made for reasons that were not sound.  Following my broken heart instead of my head.  In true Dickens fashion, “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” 

For a long time, I just pushed those experiences out of my consciousness.  I’d “moved on” and “grown up.”  That is… until my sweet daughter started high school… at the same exact high school I attended.  (Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor?)  There was just something about walking through those doors that brought so much of those years back.  The things that I pushed aside.   The things I’d rather not think about. 

So… what is a reasonably functional adult to do when faced with the Ghosts of Teenage Past?  Since the whole kicking myself for being stupid thing wasn’t really working, I’ve decided to take a different tack, forgiveness.    Instead of viewing myself as a moron, I’ve decided to use a different filter and realize that I was just a dumb kid trying to find her way through a lot of issues that were so much bigger than anything she could have even begun to fathom on her own.  Does it excuse bad behavior or erase my responsibility?  No, but it allows me to be kinder. 

Forgiveness isn’t just about forgiving others for the stuff that they do to us.  I’m learning that’s it’s also forgiving ourselves for the bonehead things we do to ourselves.  Can we really and truly accept the grace of God if we can’t let go of our mistakes?  If God is willing to cast our sin into the sea of forgetfulness, why are we so willing to keep fishing that stuff back out?

I can’t change what happened or take back decisions that I made.  I can, however, learn the lessons and move forward.  Maybe being a little more understanding of another teenager who is walking the same halls I did and helping her make the good decisions I missed.