How to reduce the anxiety caused by digging up memories of your most embarrassing moments.
To my 10-year old brother, it was a funny question. “What is your most embarrassing moment?” he asked, “Mine is when I asked my friend to marry me and she said no.” His thin frame shook in laughter.
I tried to think of a moment to share. As I sifted through the memories, I felt my heart beat faster and the heat rise to my cheeks . Each new stupid thing I had done spun me further down the vortex of anxiety.
I had to get this game over with before I broke out in a sweat.
Thinking of our past failures makes us uncomfortable and renews the shame of the moment. We are afraid to imagine what others might think of us “if they only knew.”
Imagine you wrote and published a detailed list of all your sins and failures. People around the world have access to every detail of your sorry past. What could be more embarrassing?
Every Saint Has a Past
St. Augustine wrote that book dedicated to listing all his faults. Just because someone is a Saint, doesn’t mean he has a spotless life. Even Saints have their sins and failures – their dark and embarrassing moments.
For generations, people worldwide have read his book. How was he brave enough to open his heart so completely?
Augustine wrote so “that whoever reads this may think out of what depths we are to cry to You [God]. What is nearer to Your ears than a confessing heart and a life of faith?”
Every Sinner Has a Future
Before You, Lord, all our imperfections show like dirt on a window with sunlight streaming through. But St. Augustine knew the transformative power of Your forgiveness. He knew that he is a different man than he once was.
He dug up those memories, yet at the same time he left them in the past, because his heart was pure and desired them no longer. In his humility, he accepted his faults before You and used them as an opportunity to praise Your greatness.
Help me, my God, to grow in humility. Having confessed my sins before You, I no longer need to be a prisoner to them. Help me break free from what I have been and become who You call me to be.
My past does not rule my life. I am a sinner with a future.
Be my future, Jesus.
May I – like St. Augustine, like St. Paul the Apostle, like my funny little brother – “boast in my weakness.” Because it is through my weakest moments You have shown your great mercy: the forgiveness of my sins. Amen.
Let Jesus Be Your Future
There is hope for you too.
It’s time to put your embarrassing moments in the past.
1. Confess your sins. God’s mercy is infinite. He is waiting for you to run to Him, to tell Him all that bothers You. When you hear the words “I absolve you from your sins…” you will feel the weight lifted from your shoulders.
2. Forgive yourself. We are not greater than God. If God is humble enough to forgive us for hurting Him, we need to take a lesson and forgive ourselves too. Let go of the desire to beat yourself up for the things you regret.
3. Move past the past. Even after you forgive yourself, those nagging memories sometimes creep in to threaten your peace. Know this: you may have done some regretful things, but that’s who you were in the past. It’s not who you are now. You are a child of God. You are forgiven. You are a saint-in-the-making.
4. Celebrate who you are now. Praise God for making you new. Rejoice in the graces He has given you, and how far He has brought you from what you once were. Remember you are fearfully and wonderfully made.
I Still Have to Finish That Game…
I have poured out my most embarrassing moments before Jesus in the confessional. He washed away my sins through His infinite mercy. He healed me by the words, “I absolve you from your sins…” I have forgiven myself for what I once was.
But I still wasn’t ready to bare my soul to my little brother.
So I quickly picked the first funny story that popped into my head. “One time during a game of flag football, a boy on the other team accidentally grabbed my shorts instead of my flag. When he pulled – well… all my friends saw my underpants!”
The tension melted from my shoulders and instead they bounced in laughter. My brother approved of the story: “That is embarrassing,” he smiled.
If you’re interested in St. Augustine’s Confessions, dive in:
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