In one of my favourite podcasts, the interviewer always starts with the questions, “Where were you born and raised?” and, “What did your parents do for a living?” You might think these questions are random, but what they do is invoke a picture and situation that contextualises so much of the guest’s life and makes them relatable. All of a sudden these famous people became both real and remarkable.
Another favourite form of media is the Origin movies in the Marvel universe. In all of these stories, a series of events, situations and people result in the extraordinary gifts and statuses of the heroes.
In both cases, the past is a valuable and interesting descriptor of who someone is, but there are some noteworthy perspectives that need to be considered in both cases that actually make us understand where the past belongs in our own narrative:
1. Your past is only valuable in the light of the present
I have found that my interest in the podcast guests is piqued by their past situations – not because of how remarkable their past was in itself, but because of how far they have come from that past. It is a marker of how much they were able to overcome, rise above, grow their passion and become unique. Their present frames their past – not the other way round.
One way to become free from your past is to recognise the differences in who you are presently to who you were a few years back – even the fact that you have simply lived longer tips the scale towards the value of your present.
In the unrealistic ideal world where superheroes exist, origin stories relay how someone became so remarkable. In the same context – most of these situations are insignificant in themselves: being bitten by a spider, being an orphan from somewhere else, being inventive and imaginative. Yet these all led to one or other superhero becoming the saviours of the universe. If Clark Kent landed on earth and that is where the story ended, he would have belonged in a museum, not on the frontline of wars against evil. In the same way, our past experiences can contribute to who we are, but they are not the defining element of our identity. They are simply the passages we walked through to be present right now.
2. Everyone is familiar with their own story
My childhood consisted of flying to multiple continents, singing in world-renowned choirs, composing music and engaging in interesting conversation. I once auditioned for a television reality show. Once I was a model for a German cell-phone ad. I once had my own dance crew. I once threw my hockey stick at my coaches head. On one occasion I spent a whole two weeks with one change of clothes in a foreign country. I once woke up at three thirty AM to set up for church.
All of these facts are part of my past. I am extremely familiar with them – but some are incredibly strange or extraordinary to you.
In the podcast interviews, it is interesting to hear these successful people start to realise how interesting and unique their story is when they verbalise it. It is very normal for a guest to literally realise more about themselves as they share it with someone else. In the same way, superheroes can be familiar with their abilities, but in the context of those around them who do not have the same abilities, their past becomes more interesting.
Another way you get free of your past is by telling others about it and allowing yourself to recognise the extraordinary or devastating aspects of it.
I have been working through my past with a professional counsellor and I have found this to so true. Some things that I have taken for granted – traumatic experiences and significant relationships – have resulted in me being bound to think a certain way about myself. Watching someone being affected by the stories that I am familiar with helps me realise that my past has more of an effect than I actually realise.
Say someone’s ‘normal’ would be to eat sand for breakfast. The only way they are going to realise that it is not healthy or normal is when they are placed in the context of others. It is the same with our past – if we are going to get free of it, we need to recognise the significance it has had on who we are today. Then we can intentionally move forward by adjusting our present experiences and actions.
3. Your past is a weapon for you to use, not to be used on you
You can either use your past or you can be used by your past.
I know in my life there are moments that have held me captive for years. Whether it was bullying, sexual abuse, life-threatening illness, unhealthy relationships or financial desperation – there were many reasons for me to be bound by what had happened to me.
But I have learned that all of those things have no power over me BECAUSE I am still alive and kicking today. As I have focused on building my life, I have found the past becoming fuel and motivation for change in myself and in others. But most importantly it has made me empathetic to those around me.
The origin stories of superheroes allow us to relate to them. In the same way, the stories of the podcast guests make the ‘stars’ human beings that we can empathise and be inspired by.
Your past is not meant to hold you back from who you are becoming – it should be the weapon with which you carve where you are going.
The key to making that transition – to truly be free from your past – is by believing in yourself. Don’t view yourself in light of your history, but view yourself in light of your potential.
There is no way you can walk away from your past without being convinced that there is a better way to live – that there is hope for your present and future. I have found the only way to truly change my perspective on my past was to give all my experiences to Jesus and ask God for help.
In so doing, I received a peace and a grace to forgive myself for what I had done, while also being able to forgive those who had done things to me. I was able to process my anger to a point of acknowledgement, and then move on to more exciting things. I wish I could explain it, but all I can say is that you need to experience it for yourself – the transformative power of receiving God’s opinion on who you are. If you would like to know more about the difference Jesus can make in your life, please click on the link below.