Statute of Limitations – A method of forgiveness

by elizabethbrantley

I love this idea – and I can report that it has proven quite useful to me recently. The problem we all have with some relationships is that transgressions of our past are brought up now (and we are talking about mistakes we make years and years ago that those around us won’t let us forget!) Will we ever be released from these past mistakes? Will we ever learn how to release others?

I believe we will, and can, however sometimes it takes us asking for it, from both others and ourselves.

In this country there is a very important law that states that someone cannot be tried for a crime after a certain period of time.  This is called the Statute of Limitations. You cannot be brought to court for a crime  after this time (I believe 7 years), by law in this country. Unfortunately, our relationships don’t have such a law! Instead, we might still be reminded and abused by past transgressions, that we obviously have no control over, since we cannot go back and change the past!

I have always been bothered by the fact that my father brings up mistakes I made when I was much younger. These errors of getting in trouble as a teenager, hurting a boat when I was 14, not knowing what to wear to a nice dinner when I was 12 are still brought to my attention. I can do nothing about them, and obviously, and hopefully, I learned from them. The question now becomes, though, how to rid it from having it come up so that our relationship can move forward instead of consistently be brought down by the past.

This is where the statute come in. I used it on my father! We were driving with my mother the other day, when he brought up one of these past mistakes. I paused and then simply asked him, “Dad, are you familiar with the Statute of Limitations this country has?” The question was enough for him to make the connection and understand what I was asking for. He laughed.

“I would like, Dad, to enact the Statute of Limitations here in this relationship. You cannot bring up any wrong-doing that was more than 7 years ago. And I will do the same.”

He had a lot of rebuttal – but in the end, I simply held my own. “If our country can enact this law for criminals, surely, you can do it for your daughter.”

While this was only a few weeks ago, we have held steady and he has not mentioned any of these past “things” he use to harp on. This feels much better to me.

When I was thinking about this idea this morning, I realized too, that I can apply this to myself. There were errors I made in judgement and actions in my past, that I have held close to me, allowing them to define me and defile my character in my own opinion. Yet, these were more than 7 years ago! When can I let go? When can I be free from these mistakes? Could I too can apply this here and feel more free, safe and whole?

I offer this up as a useful tool, inspired by Cloe Madanes, that can change relationships – to others and ourselves. If there is someone nagging or treating you badly (including yourself) because of a mistake long ago in the past, remember that even the legal system has ways of moving on!