Friday, April 17, 2015

Study Your Back Trail

My grandfather had words of advice to avoid getting lost:  Study your back trail.  As a Montana cowboy in the 1880’s and 1890’s, maybe Grandpa knew a thing or two about what it was to be lost. 

Grandpa maintained that often people became lost because they failed to turn around occasionally and see what the landscape would look like on the return journey.  When the travelers headed back, nothing would look familiar because they had never stopped to see how things looked traveling the opposite direction. Even though I stick closely to trails, I stop now and then to study my back trail when I hike.  You never know when you might be forced off a trail by someone’s bull, a bear, or other circumstances.  Off trail, you really need to know what the country looks like facing the other direction.

Studying your back trail is a good idea in life too.  Every now and then it makes sense to look back and evaluate what you have come through, how you handled it, and what you would do differently.  The 10th step of Alcoholics Anonymous provides for studying your back trail every day by taking a daily personal inventory and owning mistakes.

While studying your back trail is important, I have come to realize that this, like anything else, can be overdone.  If you spend all your time facing backwards and memorizing the most minute details of the country you have already passed through, you are bound to trip over the rocks and roots ahead of you.  When hiking, you stop only once in a while to study your back trail.  It’s not efficient, and can be dangerous, to focus most of your attention backwards, giving minimal heed to your forward progression.

I have spent too much time studying my back trail.  I plan to change that.  I still want to evaluate  my actions daily and correct behaviors I need to correct. Still, no matter how much I measure my conduct and hope to improve, I am human.  I make mistakes.  No amount of bemoaning the past can change my mistakes or the mistakes others made that affect me. My only hope is to rely on the saving merits of my Savior. If I want His help and forgiveness, I have to let go of both my mistakes and others’ mistakes and move on. This is the healthiest and best way to live a life.

I will continue to study my back trail, but I plan to spend most of my efforts in charting my movement forward. I don’t like to mess up, and I am going to try to avoid this. But part of my development includes dealing with my mistakes.  Beating myself up when I make errors doesn’t stop me from making more errors, it only makes me depressed, anxious, and afraid.  Stop now and then to study your back trail. Concentrate mostly on your front trail.  Both statements are good advice.


MT Missy said...

Words to live by! I know a beautiful, hopeful, joyful path awaits you along your forward journey.

Prudence said...

These were excellent thoughts. I think you should take this and write an article to submit to the Ensign.