Not Even God Can Change the Past

Shimon Peres died this past week. They don’t come much better than this. Mr. Peres was a visionary. He was courageous. He was a realist. He was willing to sacrifice — even his life if necessary. He became a peacemaker. He graced us with his wisdom. He stands in stark contrast to much of what we see in the world today.

But it’s something he told former Harvard president Lawrence Summers that caught my eye. Here is Mr. Summers’ tweet:

“I once asked Shimon Peres about something that had gone wrong. His response: Not even God can change the past.

Remember those words, Vera.

What’s done is done. It never pays to wallow in the past or to remain mired in regrets. It never pays to allow past mistakes to keep you from the work at hand. “Not even God can change the past.”

But sometimes it’s easier said than done. Sometimes it’s hard to forgive yourself for your blunders. Sometimes it’s hard not to pity yourself. Or not to feel ill-will towards those who have done you wrong. Or not to become obsessed with seeing people who hurt others get their just deserts.

It will happen. You’ll do some things that, in hindsight, seem pretty stupid. I took a job once that was a grave mistake. To this day it’s hard to accept my poor judgment and my culpability for the pain it caused your grandmother. It was hard to see people who hurt her get away with it. But there is no turning back the clock. When we try, or when we cling to the hurt, we only inflict more damage on ourselves. And we become useless to ourselves and others.

To move forward, we must forgive ourselves for our blunders. We cannot be hostage to regrets.

We must forgive others, too, for their injustices and cruelty. This, too, is hard. It’s hard to accept the fact that people can be callous and sometimes intentionally will hurt others, not only with impunity but also with gain. It’s especially hard to accept when you or the ones you love were the ones victimized. But “not even God can change the past.” Move on.

The present and future is all we have. The past is written in indelible ink. Tomorrow — indeed, what remains of today — isn’t.

Each day we’re given the opportunity to write anew. Each day we get to choose the words that will be written on our hearts.

Mr. Peres was a wise man. He was a man who could have been angry and bitter. But he wasn’t. He loved humanity and worked hard for a better world. And, by his words and actions, he emboldened others to pursue peace and justice.

When your mind is absorbed by what has happened,  when your heart is consumed by self-pity or urges of retribution, when your vision is clouded by offense, injustice or regrets, recall the words of Mr. Peres:

“Not even God can change the past.”

Let go. Look forward. And live in the present. There is much work to be done. And much life to live.

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