Written by League Member:
JASON W. BROWN
Photos Courtesy of BEYOND CLOTHING
As we evolve into stronger and more capable men, it is all too easy to let guilt of our past actions hinder and freeze our evolution in the present, in the now. A critical aspect of being a strong man is realizing that we are driven by a primal desire to change, to evolve; To become more capable in all aspects of our lives- not just for ourselves but for all those we have a responsibility to.
Just the mere fact that we are focused on becoming the strongest version of ourselves sets us apart in a world where accepting who we are is championed as virtue, as opposed to struggling to become what we want to be. But as we start the process of change, we are directly confronted with our past actions. Part of this growth requires us to honestly evaluate who we once were and who suffered from our actions. Our transgressions against others may involve a past romantic relationship, an unprovoked violent encounter with a stranger, or a family member.
Guilt is a natural component of life because it allows us to see where we faltered morally, where we could have done better ethically, and why we should have chosen differently. Every action has a consequence and we are directly related to the end result, regardless if we try to deny this fact. For men, this is especially true when we realize that we hurt innocent people, because we literally failed in our most critical role of being a protector.
One of the dangers of guilt is that it can drape over a man with a smothering presence so intense that it literally freezes our actions. We start to define ourselves in relation to our past actions and we become frozen between what we were versus the man we are striving to be. Although we are no longer “that” man, when we fall into hyper focusing on our past it literally stops us dead in our tracks. It keeps us on a never ending road to nowhere. A path where no growth is possible, where we start to feel like we deserve nothing good in our lives because of the misery and pain we have caused.
Instead of letting our past actions form a never-ending cycle of self-hate, it is possible and more powerful to let our previous actions, both positive and negative, be a bridge on the path of becoming who we want to be, moreover, who we truly are. A man should take responsibility for his actions, but the harsh truth is that we can’t go back and fix what happened- we can’t remove the pain we caused, but we can take ownership for our actions and move forward.
Beyond just taking responsibility, we must change our lives or we literally still are “that” man. The power of change resides in the fact that every day of our lives has the potential to move us further away from our past. But only if we are actively moving forward, if we are honestly striving to become stronger, rather than wallowing in a swamp of sorrow and guilt.
Instead of focusing on the end result of our past actions, we must honestly assess our past and figure out why we acted in such ways. Did we let emotion override our logic? Were we surrounded by people who embraced such behavior? Did we let fear override our courage?
More importantly, we must change our perception of our past and realize that the past is just that, the past. However, our future is yet to be written and we are the supreme author. No one controls this except us. As we evolve and become stronger in all aspects of life, we must embrace the mindset that we are creating our future, and the past is nothing more than a guide to get us where we are going.
This is a good start.
I think that coming to grips with who we were, and accepting that we cannot change our past is an essential first step in becoming a better man.
I will stand on the shoulders of a giant, when I relay this wisdom. It was something that my sister-in-law’s rheumatologist, a doctor that treats autoimmune diseases (diseases that have the body’s immune system attacking the body itself.) If you are making a decision based on fear, you are more likely to make a decision that is NOT in your best interests.
Within the context of this article, the fear that you are still the person you were trying to evolve away from, and their mistakes can keep you from making forward progress. The worst-case scenario is that the fear has you making decisions that are tactically sound, but strategically counterproductive.
To counter this, it might be worthwhile to look at the Hebrew tradition of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
Jason you are surely one of the stong and brave… It is a privilege to know and call you my friend. Your article is GREAT.
What a great objective to be the best we can in spite of any obstacles as we past through this life.