I don’t know about you, but I often feel that the events in my memory happened as recently as yesterday. Yet somehow, the memories don’t seem to change or grow along with me. They are simply stuck.

The other day an acquaintance reminded me of something I taught her years ago. She was only a teenager and I just a young adult. As I listened to her, I realized that the advice I gave her was wrong. Dead wrong, in fact. But at the time, I thought it was right, I thought I understood the situation correctly. And now, years later, I find out I made a big mistake.

The memories don’t seem to change or grow along with me. They are simply stuckI myself had long forgotten the incident, but my advice stuck with her all these years and I have been quoted endlessly as the source of the mistake! Human nature is such that when others hear this in my name, they do not think about the twenty-year-old me who said it, but rather who I am today. And the person I am today would be expected to know better. But then I truly didn’t know better. It was an innocent mistake, one which unfortunately didn’t stay in the past.

I think we’ve all said and done things that we certainly don’t want defining us decades later. But sometimes they do. Likewise, we hold onto pain and hurt caused by others who said or did the wrong thing years ago, and we carry it with us into the present.

When I was younger, I met someone who became extremely influential in my life. She had a profound impact on me in the most positive and transformative of ways, but some insensitive behavior on her part hurt me deeply. To tell the truth, the incident scarred me. And all this time, up until today, I have thought of her as someone who should have known better, someone who should have done better. After all, she was a mature, older role model and she failed me.

You can well imagine my shock when I recently discovered that she is only three years older than me! I wondered if it could really be possible. More than that, it meant that when I was hurt by her immature and insensitive behavior, she was actually quite young! Perhaps it wasn’t that she let me down as much as I was expecting far too much of her. My expectations of her would have been more appropriate for someone well beyond her years. I gave her responsibilities she wasn’t ready or able to handle. As a result, I was hurt by her lack of experience and by immaturity that was fitting for someone young and immature which she had every right to be!

Somehow, that never occurred to me. Instead, I have carried around a sense of betrayal, abandonment and hurt from someone who was practically just a kid herself when I needed a mother figure. For years I blamed her for not being someone who she was not and could not be. But I now realize what a truly incredible young woman she was. Only a young adult herself, she inspired me, taught me, opened her home and her heart to me. And while I thought of her as a parent, she was at best a big sister. And big sisters love us but sometimes hurt us. After all, they are siblings, not mothers.

I was hurt by her lack of experience and by immaturity that was fitting for someone young and immature which she had every right to beI am grateful to have come this realization while we are still in the month of Elul, the month of forgiveness. The young-woman-now-adult is not aware that I have felt this way about her all these years. Perhaps I was not aware of it so clearly myself.

Think about how many similar situations we all suffer from. Can you imagine how much easier it would be to move forward if we could look at our past and realize that just as we have changed, grown and developed, so too have those that let us down? The person they were may have caused us pain, but the person they are now would not have. If we can view them in the past, then we can leave their failures in the past. It is only when we bring their failures into the present that we find ourselves stuck with those feelings.

In the same vein, I wish I could apologize for anything I may have said or done that was incorrect, misleading or downright hurtful. After all, I was younger, less mature, less educated, less experienced, and less sensitive. Not to say that I no longer make mistakes! I most certainly do. But at least now I am more aware of my mistakes and my responsibility to others. As we embark on a new year, let’s look towards our future and leave our baggage from the past exactly where it belongs…in the past!