You're Always 17 In Your Hometown (Untucked Column #4)

I remember a teacher from middle school telling my history class that there were two things we could always count on in this world: taxes and change. While I believe that there are a few other things that we can also count on, I do not believe this teacher of mine was wrong.

Change is such an interesting topic to discuss. You have those who claim to LOVE change. There are others who are good with change in certain areas but not all. And then our contestants behind door #3 don’t want you to mess with anything in the world because it works — don’t go around changing stuff!!

We, as people, evolve. Granted, some may evolve slower than others but the principle remains the same. We have all also been hurt by someone close to us during the course of our lives.

Allow me to set a scenario: let’s say you were hurt by someone that you thought the world of when you were both 18 years old and have not spoken since the “incident.” Fast-forward 12 years. You are both now 30 and someone brings up the name of your former friend and they ask if you know them. The humanity that lives within all of us will have a tendency to want to tell this stranger to stay as far away from that person based on what happened to us 12 years ago. Yet, we have not spoken to that individual for 12 years. If we are being honest, we have no idea what kind of person they are now. All we know is who they were. 

A quote that I read last year has stuck with me and is relevant here: “We judge others by their actions. We judge ourselves by our intentions.” Something I believe we all desire is to be accepted as we are, not as who we used to be. Perhaps we were immature, short-tempered, foolish and maybe even ignorant when we were younger but we are not that person anymore. We have grown. We have experienced life. We have been humbled. Our perspective and motivations have shifted. We so badly want to shout: PEOPLE CHANGE!

Yet, isn’t it ironic that the same grace we want people to extend to us, we struggle to extend to those who have hurt us because when it comes to them: PEOPLE DON’T CHANGE! Such a dichotomy of thought, isn’t it? To some, you will ALWAYS be that person they knew when you were young. What do you do in that situation? Do you keep fighting to be understood? Do you exert an enormous amount of effort to prove that you have changed? Or do you take what you have learned, who you are now, and make investments in the people who are in your life NOW?

Humbling yourself to genuinely say, “I’m sorry” without excuse or justification is a bridge some people never cross. Will the person accept the apology? Maybe. Maybe not. Apologizing is doing the right thing by them and for you. If they are not willing to forgive you, you must be willing to forgive yourself. If we do not learn from our past, we are bound to repeat it.

A statement I heard in a Podcast a couple months ago: “Context is a powerful thing. Context is the key to compassion. It’s real easy to make snap judgments off of snapshots when you look at someone’s life. Thinking 'they should have done this or they should have done that.' But if you can zoom out and get some context instead of judging them, you’ll start having compassion for them.” 

Shaking the “hometown image” of you might not be possible where you currently live. That does not mean, however, that you have to live bound by that image of your past in your mind and in your way of life now. People are going to talk. People are going to judge you based on someone else’s opinion of you. People may never accept who you are now because they are unwilling to see past who you were. Some people are only compatible with an expired version of you.

Perhaps the best way to be seen as you are now is to do it first with others. See them for who they are and break the cycle of holding someone’s mistakes over their head for eternity. Bitterness is a heavy bag to carry. Your history does not have to define your destiny.

Steve SaucedaComment