Some say that hindsight is 20/20, which implies that by looking back at a past event and knowing what we know today, we can clearly see the correct decision to make or the right action to take. Sounds simple enough. But if this expression is accurate, why does a person, family, or even a culture remain stuck in perpetual poor decision making despite knowing and even anticipating the outcome of those decisions? Abuse, neglect, abandonment, addiction, isolation, and apathy are all choices that will impact a person, a family, and a culture.
To those who say hindsight is 20/20, I say that it depends. It depends on the individual. If an individual is willing to truly examine, through an unobstructed and objective lens, what has preceded them (their past) and then make an informed decision today, to adjust and upgrade the trajectory of their life, then hindsight can be 20/20 and a valuable exercise for building a healthy future.
So how can looking at your past help build a healthy future in the year 2020?
Over the last 13 years working in the helping field, I’ve met with hundreds of adults who carry within them a deep sense of being self-deficient. A feeling that they don’t measure up. A feeling that they are less than or that they’re not good enough. In their mindset, on some level, they’re convinced they don’t have what it takes. And this mindset permeates all areas of their lives—personal, professional, relational, and spiritual. It has limited them in the past and will hold them back in the future.
If you’re familiar with Pure Desire recovery materials, you will recognize this as the limbic lie. A limbic lie is a feeling based on past experience. The limbic lie feels true but it is not. A limbic lie is often spiritual and will always hold a person back from their full potential in Christ.
To fully walk in freedom, a person must confront, challenge, and overcome the limbic lies of their past. Pure Desire resource materials and support groups can help you overcome the limbic lies of the past and claim a foundation of understanding and truth for your future.
What does moving toward deeper understanding and truth look like? Take a moment and consider the years you were growing up and the type of relationship you had (or didn’t have) with your parents, siblings, and peers. Consider your family and the emotional climate in the home. Was it supportive? Neutral? Combative? Cohesive? Disconnected? Enmeshed? Distant? Chaotic? Safe or unsafe? Take a moment and reflect. What was the general message conveyed to you about your value or worth? Were you protected? The impact of the early developmental years are profound in how they influence one’s adult experience in marriage, parenting, and social settings.
Next, consider what you know of your parent’s upbringing. Where did they live? Who was in the home? What do you know about their relationship with their parents? What were the social and economic conditions? Was abuse, neglect, abandonment, addiction, isolation, or apathy a part of their stories? As you take time to look back at their early life experiences, you may gain a deeper understanding of who they were (as children) and perhaps why they parented the way they did. And with a clearer picture it’s possible to empathize and forgive or release them for some of the hardship they may have imposed on you. In many parent-child relationships, the parents could not give what they did not have.
Many times I have considered the difficulties my dad had when he was a young boy. His biological dad abandoned him and his brother at a young age, literally dropping them off at an orphanage. When my dad was eight years old, a stepfather named Bill entered the picture. As an adult, my dad would occasionally tell the story of when he approached Bill and called him “Dad” for the first time (again, at age 8). Bill made it very clear that he was not to be called Dad and that his name was Bill. Ouch! This was a wound my dad carried throughout his life. Knowing these stories (and others) has helped me to understand my dad and learn to extend grace and compassion. This also helped me to understand why it was so difficult for him to be open, honest, and vulnerable in close relationship. He was rejected by the father figures in his life!
By looking back objectively and with clarity (20/20!) I can see the relational dynamic between he and I was more about him protecting his heart from vulnerability than it was about my value in the relationship. Although, early on, I wondered, What was wrong with me? Why doesn’t he want to be in close relationship with me? With 20/20 hindsight, I see he simply could not express affirmation, value, or honor toward me or anyone else. He had not learned the language! This was one of my 20/20 hindsight moments in life. Easy? No. Placing blame? No way. Simply doing the difficult work of facing reality at any cost.
Through this and other hindsight moments, I chose to become the dad who was at every parent-teacher conference and who attended ballet recitals, karate tests, graduations, plays, and performances. I was the guy who rode a motorcycle with his kids and who went boating together. A dad who instilled love for the Oregon Ducks football and Trail Blazer basketball teams. Who saw every Disney and Pixar movie and who cried together as a family in the back of a movie theater (thanks Bing Bong!). I was the dad who drove his kids to school almost every morning for what seemed like an eternity! Through 20/20 hindsight, I gained a clearer picture and understanding of how the Lord can reign and move in my life as I allow Him in! I came to realize who I am, what my heart desires, and what the future can look like. Connected. Supportive. Joyful. My 20/20 hindsight work helped me change the course of my family lineage!
What 20/20 hindsight relationships or experiences do you need to look at? They don’t need to be from your childhood. A more recent relationship? A professional or academic disappointment? Simply not being satisfied with where you are in life right now?
It’s amazing how as we view our past through an unobstructed lens that we can clearly see where or how we became stuck in life and then make the necessary changes to move forward in such a way that is honoring and respectful toward ourselves, God, and others.
If you need help along the way, reach out. Pure Desire groups may be a valuable next step. For the more challenging work, Pure Desire has a team of well-trained and skilled clinicians who are experts at helping people gain clarity and understanding around God’s design for life.
May your 20/20 hindsights deliver fruitful moments for you in 2020 and beyond!
Tyler is the Clinical Director at Pure Desire. He is a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist (CSAT) and a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist (LMFT). Tyler has a Master's Degree in Marriage & Family Therapy from George Fox University. He is a contributor to Pure Desire's marriage resource Connected: Building a Bridge to Intimacy.