Letting the Past Change You

By Audra Elkington

I remember the tears running down my face. The way my heart raced. The thoughts of loneliness and hurt and even rage. And more weighty, the devastating feeling that people hated me that much.

One night in Junior High School, I stood next to our family answering machine, listening over and over as two girls yelled awful things directed at me. One of those girls was one of my (supposed) best friends. The other girl was her new friend who, for whatever reason, decided she didn’t like me at all. The hurtful message came not long after my family’s garage door had eggs thrown at it. The message indicated it was these girls who threw those eggs.

I reflect back on this experience frequently. My entire life since that night, I have forced myself to recall the way I felt in that moment. It has been a reminder to me of the fact that I never want to make someone else feel the way I did in that moment.

In the April 2021 General Conference, Elder Taniela B. Wakolo said, “I will no longer refer to my challenges as trials and tribulations but as my learning experiences.” We are often told to not dwell on the past, but isn’t our past full of important learning experiences? While we shouldn’t let the past keep us in negative feelings and situations, we can allow the lessons we’ve learned to help us become who God knows we can be.

Throughout the past few decades, I have had several other experiences that have shaped the way I treat other people. I try hard not to dwell on mistakes or past grievances caused by other imperfect humans. On occasion, however, dwelling on the past has helped me to change things about myself. These experiences have shown me what not to do. They were learning experiences, for sure. And as much as they hurt, I hold onto them to remind me of the type of person I want to be. I want to be a person who helps others feel uplifted and loved.

But, how do we do that when we are still imperfect beings? Elder Wakolo provides this answer, “The Savior taught us with this simple, all-encompassing invitation: If ye love me, keep my commandments.” 

I don’t know what became of those two girls from my past, I pray they are happy and have felt the love of their Savior. And while I can still recall the hurt their actions caused me, I am grateful for the learning experience they created for me. Without knowing it, they helped me to better understand how to love as Jesus does. My past became a springboard for all of my future relationships. And while I’m not perfect at it, I can use my past experiences to remind me of this important lesson.

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