Tag Archive: back to the future


Yesterday i wrote a post titled, ‘Before you favourite, RT, forward…’ which started with Back to the Future memes [not serious at all] and ended with alleged swimming lesson racism [very serious]. The focus being on people on various social media platforms sharing stories that arrive as ‘Breaking News’ or are sensational or emotionally-charged, before they have bothered to check whether they are authentic or not.

i want to take it a little bit further today, while continuing to emphasise yesterday’s point.

And i want to address it through the lens of the ‘swimming lessons’ debacle in Cape Town where, in a nutshell, a woman with a black African sounding surname tried to enrol her children in swimming lessons with an organisation and they told her there was no space. Then she created a new email address with a very white sounding surname and they were instantly accepted. The emails were shared and it looked like a case of obvious racism.


In terms of establishing context, i want to share a comment my friend Linde wrote which is so crucial:

Linde: This is what the minority of business owners in Cape Town who insist on alienating black clientele have created. Even I have created a white alias e-mail profile to ensure that I get treated fairly on every occasion. Unless this rise of discrimination towards black people ends or at least lowers to the same level as in other parts of SA black people will continue being on edge and since it’s difficult to get the law to act on such cases social media is the only recourse. I get that innocent people’s businesses are getting hurt – this is unfortunate, but I hope that instead of getting defensive these businesses realise the reality of the situation for black people and consider ways of ensuring that their procedures are as transparent as possible.

Cape Town has a recent, let’s say present and completely unacceptable history of racism. i have heard that from a number of black people who live in Joburg and have visited or come here for work, and i am aware of it from a number of incidents involving restaurants, people looking to rent and neighbourhood watch incidents. We seem to be doing worse than the rest of the country. And anyone committed to being an Ally, as i most definitely am, has to has to has to be aware of this and take this deathly seriously and be prepared to stand up against it any time it raises its head. Our starting point needs to be that this stuff is real, it happens and it has caused a lot of hurt for a lot of people and the kinds of experiences that i as a white person have never had to face.


So the moment someone posted this story on my page i sprung into action, emailing Virgin Active who i heard were linked to this school. I received some information from them suggesting that we did not have the full story [apparently not all the emails were shared which can completely be used to change the flavour of the story] as well as testimony from a friend of mine who uses the school and told me the accusations had taken her completely by surprise as she has used the school for a number of years and it is completely diverse.

Now this is where events got a little unfortunate. My personal context was that i was in the middle of a busy day and i caught a whiff of this when i popped into Facebook and didn’t have sufficient time to respond more extensively and so i jumped on, on my phone, and typed a quick status update asking people to pause until we had more story and this is where i got it wrong.

Brett: Okay everybody with the Virgin Active messaging and the swimming lesson panic I have a friend there who is on it and the investigation is happening but we need to slow down a little now and not get crazy before we have the full story. Good people are checking it out. As they should.

i realise now that i made a poor choice of words and despite the rush i was in i should have done better. Ncumisa, Linde and Sindile tackled me on my comments and rightly so. When many black people have spoken about incidents such as these or being refused entrance at a restaurant etc they have been labelled ‘crazy’ and so that word in itself was a bad choice. i’m not sure that i know how i could have conveyed what i needed to [some of the information i received was behind the scenes and in confidence and so while i had some extra info i was not able to share it all, which put me in a very tricky place] but i do have a good idea that this statement came across as many others have done in terms of deligitimising the concerns and making it seem like i was trying to explain away or defend something that had come across as clearly racist.

i get it. i completely do. i messed up.


When we look at any comment we make via social media and possible any article we share or joke we ‘like’ i think these four words can serve as a helpful guide for us.

Is what i am about to say True?

Is this point i am trying to make Right?

Is me expressing this thought or opinion going to be Helpful?

Am i being Kind in this moment?

A 5th one i thought of as i was writing these out was, ‘Is this Clear?’ which relates to word usage, context, language and more – are people going to receive the message i am trying to give?



i think these two overlap and my previous post deals with a lot of that.

Some comments relating to the swimming pool incident but which can relate to other online shares:

Dave: It gets so ugly. People don’t have all the facts, but then get horrifically personal and aggressive. it becomes anti-social media. ordinary moms, dads, people we know, MDs who lead companies, respected (if not respectable) radio presenters all go on a venomous tirade of filthy vitriol. I spent the weekend unfriending and blocking a lot of people who should know better, and who I don’t need to add negativity to my life.
Joanne: “Cock-ups and misunderstandings are better resolved directly than via social media.” – yes, yes and YES. I am totally over people coming straight to SM with everything. If they haven’t had an immediate response, if things don’t go 100% their way, if ALL their dreams don’t come true: go straight to social media and totally obliterate someone’s life or business. Which basically makes such a person, at best, a spoilt brat or, at worst, a bully. I’d like someone to show it to me. What? The written warranty they received at birth guaranteeing them total happiness at all times. If you can’t produce it, then get into the queue with the rest of us and listen to the boring music while waiting for an agent to attend to your call.
Lisa: My heart sank reading the mudstorm that met Aimee’s allegations. Mainly because I’ve dealt with that company for about four years, and could tell here from experience that it’s much more a case of #everydayincompetence than #everydayracism. Honestly, when I want to reschedule my kids’ time slots, the admin lady always says ‘waiting list’ and doesn’t get back to me. I suspect they partly run quite an old-fashioned paper-based business where it’s quite tricky to figure out the schedules. When you nag and ask the swimming teachers, who know better what slots are open or not, you can eventually get things moved around in under a week or so. I’ve had similar experiences with preschool and primary school waiting lists, where one staff member is more helpful or informed than another, or you kind of need to rattle their cage to remind them who you are. I find the witchhunt response on FB (“just close your business now you racists!”) a bit hard to stomach.
Linde: It’s funny how we live in a society that loves Whistle Blowers. Whistle blowers rarely have concrete evidence – their very act of whistle blowing is the catalyst for investigations being initiated. It’s funny how everyone disapproves of the whistle blowing in this instance but not even one person has suggested of a better more transparent way of doing business in Cape Town. Is this because people don’t value the contribution black people make to white businesses or the SA economy?
Claire: It’s the whole idea of Internet Mob Justice… People rant, other people share, and before you know it, with very few facts at hand, people are shutting down businesses or destroying people. I’m not saying Cape Town is innocent in the race problem. Far from it. But like they said, it’s more incompetence and bad admin skills in this instance. Mob justice… If it’s not okay on the streets, why is it okay online?

i don’t think it is undermining our quest to root out racism at all to ask that we do our due diligence when it comes to the facts of a story before we start handing out pitchforks and lighting torches. i do get that ‘questioning the validity of stories of racism in Cape Town’ has become a huge source of pain for those who have lived them and so there is a fine line [and many people in this case believed that the emails shared constituted enough proof to proceed] and we need to be sure that we are not trying to make excuses or defend the guilty by asking for proof. We also need to be committed to seeking out those answers if we are not sure.

My first response [before i shared the story] was to try and verify the story by emailing Virgin. i imagine that not everyone that had something to say to/about me did that much. Which is typical of the kind of slacktivism social media encourages – getting heated up and vocal and sharing, retweeting, liking, but not necessarily doing anything practical. If we are going to call for truth and rightness in terms of dealing with issues that are raised then we have to be prepared to go that extra mile and make sure we do the necessary research as far as possible and don’t simply use the line as a means of backing up our inaction.

My friend Jez shared this story of  a palestinian boy killed by Israel during the First Intifada. With the Israel/Palestine situation being a hugely volatile one, this photo immediately rocketted through social media spheres evoking huge emotion and anger and passion for the cause. Until a reporter did a little bit of digging and found that the image was actually taken from a movie called ‘The Kingdom of the Ants’.

Seen the movie ‘Wag the Dog?’ A fictitious war is created for televisions across America to cover up an infidelity of the president. The scary thing is that it is not just a movie any more and we have to be more and more careful about the ‘news’ we so easily trust. With anyone able to jump onto Photoshop these days as well as more high profile digital manipulation, seeing is definitely not believing any more.

While we may not always be able to establish absolute truth because of things like that, we can and should be responsible in doing as much as we can to corroborate the authenticity of anything significant that we share before rushing to click.


Next up, a helpful thing to ask before we post, share, comment, is the question: Is this Helpful?

It may be right and true, but sometimes the thing we have to add may not be all that helpful. It may distract from the real issue at hand, it may cause people to go off on a tangent, it may unnecessarily invoke anger [like my use of the word ‘crazy’ – while i understand what i meant and was trying to get across it was a very unhelpful word to use and i should have done better!] and more.

Is this adding to the present discussion? Is this going to be useful in moving us forwards?

If we can get into the habit of asking this question our social media presence will be enhanced hugely.

Different Dave: We all need to be careful of that hair-trigger that develops on our social media weapons of mass destruction. And when someone stands up and challenges the reaction to an event like this, that same hair-trigger goes off in their direction too.



Lastly, is it Kind? It may be Truthful and Right, and it may even be Helpful, but is this thing that i am about to share, Kind?

The Bible talks about ‘Speaking the Truth in Love’ which doesn’t mean the same thing as ‘Speaking the Truth in Nice’ and we see Jesus get hardcore with both the religious leaders of the day [Pharisees, Sadducees] and His own followers when they are being hypocritical or misrepresenting the Truth.

But sometimes asking the question, ‘Is this Kind?’ will help us to make good decisions, and more often than not it will help us choose relationship over being right [a great choice to err towards].

Will this mean we never get it wrong? Probably not. Life can be quite complicated and a tone-free environment is not the easiest place to always communicate what you think, feel and mean and even if you do it perfectly, someone else’s day, frame of mind and context may come into play against them. There is much space and need for grace, forgiveness and love. BUT i do think that if we ask the question – Is what i am about to share True, Right, Help, Kind and Clear? – more often before our fingers vomit their words upon the keyboard and out onto the screen, that we may be well on our way.

For the sake of building community and working towards reconciliation and building both a better province, nation and world, let’s commit ourselves to trying a little bit harder on this one.


This feels like a post which will be helpful for a lot of people to read, so if you agree please take a moment to share this via your social media channels – that is, if you feel like it is right, true, helpful, kind and clear…

[To read the Before you Favourite, RT, Forward post, click here]

On the 11th of July 2012 this popular meme illustrating the day Marty McFly [from the classic movie, ‘Back to the Future’] arrived in the future started flying its way around the internet. You know, cos look out for Marty McFly or something.

Back to the Future time date

The only problem being, that it was not true. Back to the Future was released in 1985 and in the movie Marty Mcfly travels 30 years into the future [making it 2015, October 21, my sister’s birthday, to be exact] and this picture [and many others like it] was simply displaying the benefits of an adequate knowledge of Photoshop.


“But it’s on the internet” is surprisingly not a synonym for “But it’s true”.

R.I.P. Tom Hanks, Morgan Freeman, Avril Lavigne and more…

In September 2010, thousands of people were shocked with the news that Morgan Freeman had passed away.

“RT @CNN: Breaking News: actor Morgan Freeman has passed away in his Burbank home,”

None, more so than Morgan Freeman, who upon hearing the news quickly assured people that he was not.

Celebrity death hoaxes have become quite common in the age of Facebook and Twitter, because people like you [yes?] see something newsworthy and dramatic and want to be the first to get the news out to their friends. Usually without any kind of research whatsoever. This article refers to 16 different celebrities who were assumed dead [many by the same hoaxes – fell off cliff while filming in New Zealand, snowboarding to name two].

One of them was completely accidental as when British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher died, the hashtag #nowthatcherisdead became a worldwide trend, fooling many in to believing that singer Cher was dead as the tag could be read both ways – Now Thatcher Is Dead – Now That Cher Is Dead. Thousands of people in the States , including some celebrities, jumped into mourning and retweeting mode for Cher, assuming she had passed on.


Have you, or someone you know, posted this statement, to protect your information on Facebook?

“As of September 28th , 2015 at 10:50p.m. Eastern standard time, I do not give Facebook or any entities associated with Facebook permission to use my pictures, information, or posts, both past and future. By this statement, I give notice to Facebook it is strictly forbidden to disclose, copy, distribute, or take any other action against me based on this profile and/or its contents. The content of this profile is private and confidential information. The violation of privacy can be punished by law (UCC 1-308- 1 1 308-103 and the Rome Statute). NOTE: Facebook is now a public entity. All members must post a note like this. If you prefer, you can copy and paste this version. If you do not publish a statement at least once it will be tactically allowing the use of your photos, as well as the information contained in the profile status updates.”

Another hoax. Firstly, what do you have that you think is so valuable anyways that anyone would want to take it? And secondly, if you saw this and forwarded it without checking up on its validity, then maybe other people deserve your stuff. In an unrelated note, Jesus will not be sad if you don’t share that other cheesy religious guilt-enducing post.

But more seriously, when there is something that seems too good to be true, or maybe too bad to be true, or more importantly too dangerous to be shared without checking if it’s true to be true, then a quick and quite reliable and responsible action to do is to check it out first.

Any time i see something and want to share it but want to first check on its validity i usually just type the heading or key phrase and the word ‘hoax’ or ‘scam’ into the Google and it usually sorts it out straight away. Another good way when it’s a story you’re not sure of [like was today REALLY the day Marty McFly set off for?] is to go to Snopes.com [and various other sites like it] that help weed out scams and mistruths as well as other urban legends, folklore, myths, rumors, and misinformation.


There are a number of reasons why we need to get better at this stuff. At its best it can be annoying or misleading, but at its worst it can be hurtful and potentially dangerous.

Imagine you were a relative of a celebrity and learnt about their ‘death’ on social media and it took you more than 24 hours to track them down and figure out that the story was a hoax. Imagine you are the mother or the husband. It is completely irresponsible to be someone who shares misinformation because it feels like a breaking news moment and you want to be first on it. Doing a quick check will not always save you the embarrassment and help stop rumours in their tracks, but it will at least give you a greater chance of getting it right.

A couple of weeks ago in the informal residence of Masiphumelele, a rape and a murder of a young boy took place. A local mob was formed looking to execute ‘justice’ they felt the authorities weren’t providing and a man who was thought to be guilty of the offence was killed. This is wrong and dangerous in itself, except that the news that followed a few hours later was that they got hold of the wrong person. THIS is the kind of thing that indiscriminate Facebook and Twitter sharing can be a part of creating – witch hunts, violence, shaming and loss of reputation – which as mob justice is wrong in and of itself, but how much more so when the wrong person is targeted.


# This whole post came directly out of an incident that hit social media in the last day or so involving an alleged racist incident with a woman [with a black-sounding surname] who tried to get her children into a class for swimming lessons but was told it was full – when she changed her name to a white sounding name, she was told there was room for her children.

What was interesting with this event [and i will be writing more on this, especially as i get to know and hear more of the full story] was that i quickly found out that i knew someone on both sides and so was given a different perspective than most people saw [some of which i am unable to comment on because it is personal information that was shared in confidence] and with the response to both the alleged victim and the perpetrator being slander/threats of violence and more, realised that maybe this is one incident that is not as clear cut as it seems. The response i got when i messaged Virgin:

Yes, we have been in touch with both Aimee and Swim4Life and are conducting a full investigation to gather all the facts, and will take the appropriate action. Unfortunately as with many such incidents, there is an intense trial by social media happening, targeting Aimee, Swim4Life and Virgin Active, and I urge you and those you engage with to consider the humans on all sides, and respect their dignity, while we look into and help resolve the matter. Thanks for getting in touch.

It’s a very tricky situation and unfortunately a lot of people are commenting without all the facts on hand. We don’t tolerate discrimination of any kind, and we want to be absolutely sure of the full story as it is a) the dignity of Aimee and the swim school, as well as the livelihood of a family business on the line. We cannot make rash judgements until all the facts are in. Thanks for understanding, Brett.

From a message to a guy called Andrew who wrote to them: Virgin Active does not tolerate discrimination of any kind. We have been in contact with both parties since we were alerted to this on Saturday 10 October, are conducting a full investigation and will take appropriate action.

Also my friend Lisa posted on Facebook about her experience with the school:

Sorry, I have no idea of the context of this, but it sounds totally weird. My kids both swim with this squad; I’m at their pool roughly three times a week, (often at different times if they have catch-up sessions for missed lessons) and frequently see swimming students of all races, and all ages (from babies to adults) in their classes, both one on one lessons and group sessions. The teachers are warm, professional and fantastic – to all their students. The admin of the swim school is, however, scatty at best; they are managing hundreds of swimmers and time slots. They’re better at teaching swimming than at admin. I can’t comment on the original post as I’m not connected to her on FB, but I’d urge her to send the complainant directly to the company to question the situation and call them on it. Cock-ups and misunderstandings are better resolved directly than via social media.

So while it looks [from the emails that were shared with us, which may not have been all the ones there were] like a racist incident which must be fully investigated and dealt with accordingly, there is also some evidence to suggest that maybe it’s not the school that is racist and maybe there is a story different to the one that we were fed. And we have to give is due diligence.

# tbV and i have different ideas when it comes to the idea of public shaming and both for very good reason i think and maybe i will see if i can get her to share some of her thoughts and i will do the same sometime soon.

Have you ever shared something on Social Media that you later found out was a hoax or mistake? Has it taught you in any way to be more vigilant before clicking like, favourite, retweet or send?

[For my related post on a few things to think through as we comment, click here]

i am not a big fan of April Fool’s Day. i know, i know, shoot me down.

And i’m not sure i can say what i want to say here without being labelled judgmental, so go ahead if you need to.


But it was brought to light to me why i am such a big fan of not being a fan of April Fool’s Day when i read my friend James’ description of it as ‘Happy International Being Deceived Day’ or something like that.

i mean there is the trick side to it right? i am typing this with blue fingers because someone in my house (and  won’t mention Aaron’s name) stuck blue food coloring in the tap somehow and i found that pretty funny. And i believe there is a line as to what is okay and what is not in terms of ‘being tricked’ and i have a fair number of friend who i love dearly who have a completely different idea of where that line might be. And that’s okay.

But then there is the deception side of it, which is really just the pretty word for lying, right?



We are pregnant. Ha ha no we’re not. We just deceived you. That moment of happiness and celebration you shared with me, all just a joke. Ha ha you fell for it.

Yes, i did. Well done you. You successfully deceived me.

Ah, there you go with the judging. And I’m pretty much judging you for judging me, so if one of us doesn’t pull out of this soon somebody is going to start disappearing from their family photo ‘Back to the Future’ style if you don’t know what i mean (because you’re under 33 or something).

The pregnant one is a specific area of pain for me. And i saw it when I saw just who was liking the similar statement i made on the book of faces. Some friends of mine who have really been struggling to have a baby for a number of years. For some reason they didn’t find people pretending to be pregnant all that humorous.

But beyond that, for me honesty is one of the most important things there is. It’s something i place a high value on. And so well done on deceiving me, but you also broke trust with me. And that is a difficult one to earn back. Not because i’m going to hold a grudge and choose not to forgive you for April Fooling me. But because you broke trust. It’s broken. Broken things take some time to be put back together.


i got taken by one person on Facebook who posted an achievement or happening in their life that seemed legit and so i wrote a short message of celebration. A minute later someone who knew them better commented on how it must have been a joke because they would never do this thing. And i quickly snuck back in and deleted my comment. i was embarrassed. Wait a second? i was embarrassed for celebrating someone? For getting excited about their joy? Such a small insignificant moment of my day and yet it felt pretty huge.

my friend Steve Heineman summed it up nicely in his very clever status: ‘Man, I can’t wait until April Fools Day is over so we can announce some huge news…’

cos that’s it really, hey? you can’t trust anything today. any announcement has to be treated with caution, any news has to be really dissected to see if it is in fact real.


Well, that feels like a win. And i’m sure it does to a lot of you. And good for you. But for me it feels like we’ve lost something and so i look forward to tomorrow when everything is right with the world again. Well, this thing at least… Happy International Day of deception everybody!


‘We’ll be Friends Forever, won’t we, Pooh?’ asked Piglet.
Even longer,’ Pooh answered.’

[A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh]

there is just so much good stuff to be taken from looking backwards in life if we are using it to help us move forwards well and that is what this continuing series is about…

this one is a little bit similiar to the one i did on People Gratitude [taking time to be grateful for the people who have poured into your life] but taking it a step further…

i firmly appreciate the idea of ‘seasons’ – that some people and situations are in our life simply for a time period and then we or they move on and how that can be okay… i was strongly reminded about this recently when two good friends of mine from South Africa, Debbie and Barry Austwick, came to visit for three nights and we just completely reconnected [as if we’d lived together for three years solidly, or maybe more accurately as if we HADN’T lived together for three years solidly – ha ha, one of those for sure] as if no time had passed and we laughed so much and had great and deep conversations about important things and it was such an injection of life into me.

and while i don’t think it’s important or good or needed to reconnect with everyone in your life who has been in your life for a season, i do think it can be so helpful and encouraging and life-giving [especially if you shared a good time together]

i remember a certain camp a whole bunch of us used to go on with a whole bunch of people from a certain demonisation, um denomination, and there would be a bunch of okes who would get together and absolutely celebrate the past, reliving the highlights, telling funny stories, remembering close encounters and just completely adding life to each other and good times. then there were others who would get together and moan about all the bad times and the organisation they had been part of and how it had messed up their lives and how badly they’d been treated and so on and it was just so negative and soul-destroying in some senses…

two different groups of people getting together and telling stories, but just completely different experiences – one bringing back the good and reliving and celebrating, the other bringing back anger and bitterness and fueling fires that should have been long forgotten or allowed to burn out. and probably a bunch of us who were stuck somewhere in the middle but hopefully with the good stories and life-givingness outweighing the bad.

“Why did you do all this for me?’ he asked. ‘I don’t deserve it. I’ve never done anything for you.’ ‘You have been my friend,’ replied Charlotte. ‘That in itself is a tremendous thing.”
[E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web]

so i want to encourage you to think back and see if there is someone who used to be part of a good time in your life [maybe it was a youth group or a missions trip, maybe it was a grade at school or a class at varsity or a job you worked on together or a hundred other possibilities. if they’re nearby, call them up and invite them to go and grab a drink with you. if they’re further away why not set up a Skype call or plan a trip and chance to hang out? [Some Skype calls i have had in the last three years while being in Americaland with good mates and family back home have been such a much needed boost at times]

you can’t relive all of the past, and you shouldn’t. but it doesn’t hurt [and can sometimes help a lot] to organise a meal with a friend or a reunion of mates or to simply reconnect over the phone.

do it! 

and then come back here and tell me how it went…

‘For it was not into my ear you whispered, but into my heart. It was not my lips you kissed, but my soul.’ [ Judy Garland]

This is just the smallest glimpse of some of the moments of memory creation – my photo collection and patience is too small to come close to inserting literally hundreds of people who should be in here as people i share some of these memories with. thank you to all of you who have been a part of these and other memorables.

[To return to the beginning of this series on looking back to move forwards well, click here]

I am continuing this series on looking backwards to help yourself move forwards well. This post on Regret should probably go hand in hand with the previous one on Forgiveness.

‘If only. Those must be the two saddest words in the world.’ [ Mercedes Lackey]


And this really is the bottom line. We cannot go back to the past and live things differently. We can’t change the past. And so living with regret of decisions made, actions done, things said becomes completely unhelpful because there is nothing we can do to alter those things. However, we do have the power to affect how we live forwards and so it can be helpful to look back at things that didn’t go so well, not to wallow in self-pity and regret or beat ourselves down or anything like that [again, doesn’t really achieve anything worthwhile] BUT so that where possible we can put things right or else make time to learn from what has happened and choose to live differently from here on out.

“It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.” [ Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland]

Carroll has a great point there. Another great hope linked to looking backwards is that you have changed as a person. Hopefully you have grown and matured [not become old, please!] and learnt more about love and grace and forgiveness and so the ‘you’ who made those bad decisions and maybe hurt people or messed up badly, is also someone who you have, to some extent left behind as you have moved on.

Transform any regrets you may have from the past into learning opportunities for the future. Insofar as you have the ability to mend broken relationships or make right for things you got wrong and people you hurt, do so [remembering that if they choose not to forgive, that is okay, but make sure they hear and see that you are really repentant] and then leave them behind and move forwards.

‘Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave with regret? There are better things ahead than any we leave behind.’ [C. S. Lewis]

Lewis nails it. Start believing that there are better times ahead and work towards those. Embrace the present as you live towards creating a successful future, for you and all those around you.

But if you are going to choose to regret something, this would be a good one:

‘Looking back, I have this to regret, that too often when I loved, I did not say so.’ [David Grayson]

 And by ‘choose to regret’ i mean ‘live so you don’t have to’ – is there someone you need to tell you love or appreciate them today? Don’t wait too late or this too will be tossed upon the regret pile. Don’t wait til someone’s funeral to say all the nicest things about them they never got to hear.

So live forwards well, by learning from, but refusing to carry, any regrets from the past…

[For the next part on Re-establishing contact, click here]

‘We are products of our past, but we don’t have to be prisoners of it.’ [ Rick Warren]

Continuing this series on looking backwards to move forwards well, this has to be one of the hugest aspects of how it can be beneficial for you. Getting this one right can transform your life and relationships – it won’t necessarily be the easiest of journeys, but it will be completely worth it.

‘Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.’ [Mother Teresa]

Sometimes people can be mean. They can be jerks. Sometimes we probably deserve it. Other times it might come as a complete blind side and have nothing to do with us. But at some point in life, especially if you are living a Jesus-following life [or trying to], someone is going to hurt you, a lot, and you need to figure out how best you can and should respond.

Stephan Pastis, through his amazing comic strip, Pearls before Swine, captures it this way:


Which is Truth number one, which I have also heard put this way – ‘Holding on to unforgiveness is like drinking a cup of poison and hoping that the other person will die.’

And it’s true. There can even be times when someone has done something to hurt you and so you nurse a grudge against them and they don’t even know they have done it. So they are living life completely unaware that they even hurt you in any way and you are starting to fester with anger and bitterness and maybe even thoughts of revenge. It is so healthy to approach the person directly and hopefully be able to resolve it well, but at the very least be able to get to the point of forgiveness and then move on.

Jesus deals with it in the prayer He teaches His disciples by introducing the phrase, ‘Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who have sinned against us.’ The link there is very intentional and implies that you can’t have one without the other. But, knowing how slow we are, He almost sneaks this one in right at the end of the prayer, just to make sure we got it: “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” [Matthew 6.14-15]

He echoes it again big time in the parable of the unmerciful servant, found in Matthew 18. From a place of realisation of all that you have been forgiven by God, the natural reaction should by you extending forgiveness, mercy and grace to those around you. But it is also something He commands us to do with the proviso that if we are unable to, then we surely will not receive forgiveness from God.

Which brings us to a second important Truth:

true story

If we truly love God and our neighbor [another great command Jesus demonstrated so well in His life, and also in His death as He gasped out the words, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” while literally dying on the cross for those who had put Him there [Luke 23.34], then forgiving them should be a natural desire for their sake, but the reality is that forgiving someone else frees us from bitterness, deep anger and hatred which threatens to eat us up. I strongly believe that if you live with any measure of unforgiveness in your life, that it will affect every single other relationship you are in. You cannot experience or offer true Love unless you are willing to come to a place of forgiveness towards those who have wronged you. [with the knowledge that forgiving them doesn’t mean what they did was not wrong or hurtful to you].

Which brings us to this absolute Truth:

so much of Truth

If you have been deeply hurt by someone then everything in you may be wanting to revolt against that statement. But it is true. People can encourage towards anger. People can provide context for offence.

But each one of us decides whether we take it on or not. And remember the word in the Bible was not about anger being wrong, but rather it says, ‘in your anger do not sin,’ [Ephesians 4.26] which feels a whole lot more achievable.


A helpful Truth is to realise that Forgiveness is not a feeling. Much like Patience and sometimes Love, you don’t always feel like forgiving. Especially if what the person did to you was really hectic and just messed up [like some form of abuse or physical assault]. It is largely the decision to not allow what was done to you to affect your daily life and relationships with others. The more painful the thing done to you, the more often you have to make the choice. So maybe at the beginning you have to decide every hour to forgive that person. After a while hopefully it becomes a few times a day. And then eventually it once a day and then hopefully once or twice a week. “Today I choose not to hold this thing against them, or to let it affect me.” And trusting that God is big enough to help you, maybe not forget the thing completely, but to not remember it with anger and bitterness and the need for revenge. What amazes me about the Love of God is not that He had this kind of spiritual amnesia when it comes to my sin, but that knowing the sin I have been involved in, He chooses to absolutely not hold it against me and treats me as if I have never done any of that stuff. This is what we hope for.

On the plus side, there is the assurance that God will not let the wrong go unpunished. “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” [Romans 12.20]

I know, I know, I too have wanted to suggest that perhaps that wasn’t necessarily meant as a metaphor in ‘this particular case’ but sadly the Greek holds up. But God has this. Don’t waste time, energy or health and don’t damage your other relationships in life by holding on to something that, like with pig at the top, may not even be affecting the other person even in the slightest. Extend forgiveness. Choose life to the full.

‘You couldn’t erase the past. You couldn’t even change it. But sometimes life offered you the opportunity to put it right.’
[Ann Brashares]


Don’t waste this opportunity to free yourself from unforgiveness which affects every other relationship you have, even if you don’t realise it. And know that as hard or impossible-seeming as it might appear, that God promises you the resources and strength to be able to go through with it.

Some other posts on Forgiveness related matters include:

Ubuntu-botha [Rescuing the perpetrator]

Forgive without punishing

Amazing Grace, how costly so

How to condemn evil, while loving evil people

[To continue on to the next post looking at Regret, click here]


“No man is rich enough to buy back his past.” [Oscar Wilde]

But you can discover richness if you are willing to learn from it.

As we continue to focus on how looking back well can help us move forwards successfully, the next aspect i want to touch on is learning. We may not be able to change the past, but we can definitely learn from it to help change the future trajectory we might currently be on.

“Study the past if you would define the future.” [Confucius]

How do we learn from the past? Well, creating opportunities to reflect can be a good one. When tbV and i were finished out time at the Simple Way we took a few opportunities to sit together at a restaurant with a bunch of pieces of paper with different headings on them – What were some of the things we learnt these last 19 months? Who are the people we are going to miss? What were some of the disappointments? What are some of the moment we want to celebrate? What were our highs and lows?

This can be such a helpful thing to do when finishing off one season of life and heading into the next. By taking time to name and focus on good and bad things that happened, you can help put yourself into a place where you can maximise the good and avoid the bad in the future. Questions like ‘How could I have handled that relationship better?’ or ‘What might have been a better use of my time in this area? can really set us up well to be able to create better rhythms and habits as we move into a new context.

It is a good exercise to do by yourself but possibly even a better one to do with someone else as they can help identify blind spots if you create space for them to speak honestly [and lovingly] to you.

So maybe you are about to finish school or study. Maybe there is a new job on the horizon or you are about to physically move to a new place. Maybe you children are about to leave school or home. Perhaps you recently ended a dating relationship with someone or had a friendship end really badly. Would it maybe help to set aside some time and reflect on the past with the purpose in mind of setting yourself up well for the future.

It might even be something you want to do at the end of a year. Instead of the traditional ‘Write overambitious New Year’s Resolutions and try and keep them for about a week’ practice, how about scheduling a time [with your spouse if you are married or a group of friends, make a weekend trip of it] to sit down and look back at the last year and focus on both highlights and low lights and do what you can to set yourself up better for the coming year.

This is one way we can benefit from looking backwards which can really have such a huge positive impact on how we live forwards…

“The only thing new in the world is the history you do not know.” [Harry S. Truman]

[To continue to the next important and potentially life-transforming part on Forgiving, click here]

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