We have often heard the phrase that “time heals all wounds,” and although I have my personal misgivings with the expression, time passing is a gift for us all to realize.
Experience is the best educator. We don’t learn anything without experience, and we don’t learn any skill without putting ourselves out there and being baptized by fire. But you cannot have experience without the gift of time.
Time passing has the power to heal some wounds. I have had the wounds of the past assuaged, but not completely healed just by the act of time healing. Time is a prerequisite: it is not the only factor. Just because a wound hurts less doesn’t mean a scar isn’t there — and that scar might always be there.
It’s the same with emotional wounds. Some things, whether it’s the death of a loved one or break up with who you thought was the love of your life, Being reminded viscerally enough of those wounds and being forced to touch those scars, even though they’re invisible, is still painful.
The gift of time passing is that we have life-fulfilling experiences to accompany that time. Now, during the holiday season, the recollection of those experiences can be sweet, but it can also be very, very painful.
Jim Rohn, the late motivational speaker, told us that “life is not just the passing of time. Life is the collection of experiences and their intensity.”
It’s important not to just wake up every day looking at the clock, going through the motions until it’s time to go to bed. Take time to reflect. Take time to express gratitude, and pray. Like philosopher Søren Kierkegaard once said, “life can only be understood backwards,” so we need times like now to understand what the heck just happened in our lives, friendships, relationships, and families.
“But it must be lived forwards” is the second half of Kierkegaard’s quotes, so the gift of time passing must be managed carefully for each of us. We must take time to understand life backwards, too. It’s a careful balance that looks very different for all of us.
Time will pass. Life will be experienced. And sometimes it can feel like we’re going in circles, not improving, making the same mistakes over and over. But like I abide by Yeats’s great spiral staircase analogy: we’re always going around, but up the staircase. But we have to go around to go up.
Time lends way to forgiveness. We see a lot of the grudges of the past as petty, insignificant, and just let them go. My co-worker at work, who has been teaching a lot longer than me, has a great relationship with the kids he used to teach in elementary school, several years ago. They greet him in the building with handshakes and fondness, but he will confess that their relationships were conflictual and confrontational back then, and the only thing that led to them being cool now is the gift of time passing.
Like the cycle between suffering, endurance, character, and hope in Romans 5, there is a cycle between time passing that leads to experience that later leads to wisdom. It’s okay you don’t have wisdom about your current situation. It’s okay that you make a lot of mistakes, and it’s actually good that you are. You don’t have the gift of hindsight that gives you wisdom.
So although it’s easier preached than practiced, easier said than done, go easy on yourself. You don’t have the gift of time passing. Feel everything you’re going through, from the pain to the joy, and take some time to also understand life backwards.
A version of this post was previously published on Medium and is republished here with permission from the author.
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