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Some of us carry a lot of stuff with us. We aren’t overloaded with actual things, but rather we are overloaded with emotional baggage.  Carrying emotional baggage is hard.  When we have too much of it, we are tense.  We are easily frustrated by both real and imagined slights.  Or perhaps we are sad, even if we are more blessed than most.

We carry emotional baggage when we can’t let go of the past. All of us do this to a greater or lesser extent.  The problem is that the past is just that – the past.  It’s over and done with.  We are powerless to change it.  We do, however, have the power to prevent it from affecting our present.  The way we do that is by leaving it behind.  Leave your burdens from the past at the side of the road, keep walking, and don’t look back.

Unfortunately, there are certain types of baggage that are hard to leave behind. One issue that many of us face is our upbringing.  Often people believe that they were robbed of the perfect childhood.  They resent their parents for failing to raise them in a “Leave It to Beaver” type home.  Realize that such an upbringing is rare.  My husband is one of the few people I know who had traditional, solid parents.  He was blessed with a Norman Rockwell-style childhood.  But he is in the minority.  A lot of us were raised by parents who made mistakes – sometimes egregious ones.

If you carry baggage because of your parents’ failures, the best advice I can give you is to leave their mistakes behind you. Realize that whatever they did or failed to do as parents is not a reflection on you.  In fact, it has absolutely nothing to do with you.  You are a beautiful creation of God.  Move forward and focus on your ability (and responsibility) to create an amazing life for yourself today.

People also carry the baggage of failed relationships, especially failed marriages. You would be very surprised by how many failed marriages there are.  Divorce is not the only way that marriages end.  It simply is the “legal” way that marriages end.  There are many people out there who are legally married, but their marital relationship is over.  They simply co-exist.

Having a marriage fail is a painful experience. When my first marriage ended, it made me question my ability to make another person happy.  It also made me question whether I was a valuable person.  But those aren’t the right questions.  When a relationship ends, you need to ask yourself, “What was my role in this relationship’s demise?  What do I need to work on in myself?”  If you don’t go through this exercise, you won’t mature as a person.  Sadly, the mistake many people make is to focus on the other person.  They fret about how that person “wronged” them, and then they carry around that “wrong” like a big suitcase wherever they go.

The best thing you can do when a marriage fails is to leave the baggage of hurt feelings behind. Instead, use the failure as an opportunity to focus on the areas where you need to grow.  You may decide that you want to focus on being more patient or kind.  Or perhaps you want to work on your priorities.  Either way, don’t make the mistake of creating emotional baggage by obsessing about what the other person did or didn’t do.  Your job is to work on improving yourself.

Personal failure is another area where we create baggage. Losing a job, not achieving a goal, or making a financial mistake are ways that we can experience failure in life.  Realize that those failures don’t define you.  Your defining moment is what you do after you’ve failed.  Do you rally after a job loss and immediately pound the pavement for a new and better one?  Do you shoot for your goal again, or perhaps replace that goal with an even bigger and better one?  Do you crumble after a financial error, or do you save your pennies and work to rebuild your finances?

We create baggage from personal failures when we choose not to rebound from them. Then those failures do become our defining moments.  There is a great quote by Robert Kiyosaki: “9 out of 10 businesses fail; so I came up with a foolproof plan – create ten businesses.”  I love that attitude.  It says, “I am not defined by the nine businesses that failed.  I am defined by the tenth business that was successful.  I am defined by my perseverance.”  Don’t allow personal failures to become your emotional baggage.  Leave that baggage at the curb and walk away.  Forget the setbacks, and instead aggressively move toward something bigger and better.

The key to life is to pack light. Don’t carry emotional baggage from the past with you.  The troubles from the past are valuable only to the extent that we use them to identify where we need to improve.  Otherwise, our past troubles should be left behind where they belong.  If you have trouble forgetting your past, pray and ask God to relieve you of the burden.  Make that your daily prayer.  Then one day you will realize that God has taken those bags from you, and you won’t believe how light you feel.

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