The Past

My Love started her firm.

She financed its growth entirely from her earnings, without outside loans or investors. She hired every member of the professional staff, directly from graduate school. It’s the only real employer any of them have ever had. She, or those she trained, trained every member of the professional staff.

She has made some of the professionals her partners, but everyone – inside and outside her firm – knows whose firm it is.

She makes and enforces the rules.

And everyone is happy with that.

You cannot change the past. You can only learn from it.
— My Love

That’s my Love’s guiding principle, in business and in life.

Her firm’s most basic rule: If one makes a mistake, one must own up to it at once, mitigate the consequences and learn from it.

She won’t point fingers. She won’t let anyone else point fingers. She’s not interested in blame or fault or guilt or shame or punishment or vengeance. She won’t let anyone else indulge them, either. All those things – blame, fault, guilt, shame, punishment, vengeance – are stupid.

Why? Because they can’t change the past. The past cannot be changed. Those things are a waste of time and energy.

The only thing you can do with the past is learn from it.

Her firm meticulously studies all its mistakes. Not to assign blame, but to learn.

Which is why her firm makes very, very few mistakes.

 The past is never dead. It’s not even past.
— William Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun

When I was young and trying to deny to myself that I am what I am, I did many things that I’m not proud of. Stupid things. Things that disgust me now. Things that disgusted me then.

I let others do awful, degrading things to me.

I never did anything criminal. I never endangered life or limb. But I endangered my soul and the souls of those who used me.

I left that behind when I left for the University. I started over. Tabula rasa. And I did leave it behind – for two years.

Then it all blew up.

One person vindictively, and others innocently, used it to destroy something I cherished.

To protect me from further harm, a woman did something noble and selfless, something that hurt her and irrevocably altered the course of her life. It hurt and altered the lives of everyone she loved.

When I told my Love about it, she quoted Faulkner.

The morning after it all blew up, I forgave them. I forgave them all. I forgave them everything. Then I forgave myself.

Not a passive-aggressive, self-righteous forgiveness. I just let it go. Forgot it.

I’m no saint. It just wasn’t worth the time, energy and thought – time, energy and thought that I needed for the things that I wanted to do in life. And I could see that storing up the injury was already eating at my soul, and would eat at my soul until my soul died, bitter and spiteful.

Years later, I met the woman who did the most to destroy the thing I cherished.

She acknowledged her fault and begged my forgiveness. I told her that I had forgiven her the day after the destruction.

She didn’t believe me.

Forgiveness is amazing, the most amazing thing in life. The most liberating. And it is all in one’s own power.

It frees the mind and body to be creative, constructive. It erases all the pain. It frees the soul.

All the awful things done to me, all the awful things I did to myself.


4 thoughts on “The Past

  1. Your love’s way of conducting a business sounds so wonderful. I work in an environment that is exactly the opposite. One woman here loves to throw others under the bus and degrade them so to make herself look better. We find it very hard but remind ourselves she must be a unhappy person to have to put others down so she feels good.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I had a boss like that, very early in my career. Some people don’t understand that loyalty must be earned. The way to earn loyalty is to show loyalty.

      I had another boss who told me that the most important job of a manager is to be a “s**t umbrella”: “When it starts rainin’ s**t, you gotta make sure it doesn’t fall on your people.” No matter what went wrong (and things go wrong on an hourly basis on a big engineering project), no matter whose fault, he’d take the blame. I’d walk through a burning building wearing a gasoline suit for that guy.

      My Love has a fanatic commitment to an impossibly high standard of rigor and quality for the product. You’d think that would drive people away, but it’s like a cult: they’re all committed to it.

      She a business school professor’s worst nightmare. Her management style is pure intuition. She sets impossible standards. She’s hopeless at the simplest administrative tasks. She has no common sense.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. We have a similar idea of forgiveness. Holding on to those things, well, they do the person more harm than good. As cliche as it sounds, letting go and forgiving is for you, not for them. I too had someone commit a horrendous act against me, a true act of betrayal. I’ll admit, it took a while to forgive, but once I did, I realized that it was so much nicer, and just, less, i dunno, hard? to deal with the anger and the frustration of that betrayal. Since then, it doesn’t even makes to me to hold on to all of that. I just let it go, and keep moving forward.

    Liked by 1 person

    • When you say

      forgiving is for you, not for them

      You are exactly right.

      Holding a grudge takes a lot of energy.

      The events I alluded to changed my understanding of, “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us”. It’s not asking Him to forgive me only to the extent I forgive others. It’s asking Him to give me the strength to free myself from the past.

      The Lord’s Prayer, for all its bald simplicity, is profound. It is as fine a summary of the elements of a good life as, “Love your neighbor as yourself” is as a summary of the elements of a good ethic.

      Liked by 1 person

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