“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
The past does not define us; what does is only what we choose to be.
We are slaves to the past only by our choosing. For it is only by unwillingness do we refuse to let the past remain there.
To enslave one’s self to the past is to relive it within one’s own mind — the past becomes an overbearing and overarching foe, an obstructing veil that colors what we do and how we live. Worst of all, those with whom we interact, those who cannot see and seldom realize the veil of the past that you choose to wear, suffer the consequences of misunderstanding, miscommunication, and strained relations.
The past serves us with lessons and reminders. The past is a path that has lead us to this moment. As a hiker does not dwell upon the rocks that caused her to slip, or the creek that demanded from her a leap of faith so that she might cross it, dwelling upon challenges and trials of our pasts serve only to obstruct us from living fully, today.
Allowing the past to define us today adversely affects friendships and relationships because we obligate others to determine, dissect, and understand occurrences and influences of the past that influence our behavior today. To willfully burden a friend, family member or lover with the task of unmasking and fully understand the unseen and increasingly-distant influences of the past is an unfair burden that will surely complicate happiness.
While the past has, of course, heavily influenced who we are and who we have become, it does not define, limit, or restrict us and who we choose to be. Our potential — what we allow ourselves to do today, and what we do on behalf of a better tomorrow — is always unlimited.