I’m sure that I’m not the only person who has looked back on their childhood and squirmed, remembering all the foolish, stupid, ignorant, etc. things they have said or done at that time. These memories used to haunt me at odd times, making me feel both miserable and guilty.
- Saying something hurtful to someone dear to you because at that time, your own feelings were hurt and you lashed out at the nearest target.
- Letting something bad happen to you because you didn’t know how to stop it at the time.
- Allowing someone else’s pain to hurt you.
- Saying something hurtful to someone because they hurt you first.
And the list can go on and on. When we are young, we don’t know how to handle every single thing that happens to us. We can find ourselves in situations where we don’t know how to get away, or stop it.
When I was about 14, a friend of my parents introduced me to his nephew. He was a good-looking boy of about 17 years old, and he paid me a flattering amount of attention. I remember feeling mesmerized by this person telling me how beautiful I was, how smart I was, and so on.
Long story short, I had a gut feeling about this nephew; I couldn’t have put words to it, but I felt deeply that something was “off” about him. During a day of skiing together, he took off down a trail I knew to be a bit hazardous if you weren’t familiar with it. I followed him to warn him of the danger, and he was waiting for me in a little cut-off on the trail.
All of a sudden, I felt alarm bells ringing in my head. I didn’t know what might happen, but I knew I had to get away and fast. I babbled something about being cold and wanting a cup of hot chocolate down at the lodge. I didn’t even listen to his answer when I took off down the rest of the trail as fast as I could go. Luckily, I ran into Dad, who had been waiting for us.
The point of all this is that when we do dangerous or foolish things as children, we look back when we are older and are aghast at our recklessness and ignorance. Most of the bad things I remember happened when I was a child. (And yes, I consider teenagers children, too.) When we are older and more experienced and have learned to avoid pitfalls, we look back on our childhood and wonder how we could have been so stupid.
But it’s not stupidity, it’s being young and inexperienced. We need to forgive ourselves for things we said and did as children. Now that we are grown up, we know better. Back then, we didn’t know. Even admonitions from our parents didn’t always stay in our minds.
These days my go-to healing phrase is “I was a CHILD!” Hearing this helps me forgive myself. These days when I say this to myself, I can let those things go, because I was after all a child.