Dealing with “What Ifs” and “If Onlys”

We put our blinders on because the truth scares us so much we don’t want to see it or believe it. People have off days, especially when stress and pain are daily companions. We know that what we’re going through will change our world so catastrophically that we look away from the future.

In some ways, there are no more powerful words when used together than “what if” or “if only.” Both imply regret and a desire to go back and take a different path.

So we need a plan to get rid of the “if only” and “what if” brain torture. Here is what I want you to do:

  • Take out a blank sheet of paper. At the top, the header should read, “My If Only List.”
  • Begin to make a comprehensive list of all of your “if only” regrets. Take your time and be thorough. There is no “if only” too big and no “if only” to small for this list. They are all pertinent.
  • After you have completed the first draft of the list, leave it and do something else. Once you’re away from the list for a while, other “if only” thoughts will surface that will need to be added.
  • When your list is complete, I want you to hold it facing upward with both of your hands toward the sky and pray this prayer: “Lord, here are my ‘if only’ burdens. They are abusing my mind, heart, thoughts and spirit. I know that they are not good for me. Please take them into your care. Thank you. Amen.”
  • After you have prayed, open your mind and imagine God’s hand coming down from the clouds of heaven and taking all of the “if only” burdens off of that piece of paper. As far as you are concerned, the page is now empty.
  • Take the “empty” piece of paper, tear it up into little pieces, and dispose of it with fervor. There are many ways of doing this.  Throw the (biodegradable) pieces into the ocean. Flush them down the toilet. Bury them in a deep hole in the back yard and then plant a nice gardenia over them. Make it a ceremony. Play rock music or Beethoven’s “Moonlight” Sonata. Celebrate the fact that your “if only” burdens are now in a much better place.
  • This process may take several applications before you are rid of all “if only” of “what if” thoughts. Finally, they will no longer be a burden to you. They now belong to God. Be sure to thank him for taking them away and relieving your mind.

Believe me, I know that it is not always this simple. You can control your conscious thoughts, but not your subconscious. If you’re a very patient believer, over time your reassurance will blossom like a new spring, and you will realize that those “if only” statements were preventing you from moving on with the rest of your life. They were holding you back and therefore were unhealthy. Now they are just where they need to be—on God’s capable shoulders.

As you go through the intense process of healing, remember that the deepest wounds will fester and spread if left exposed and untreated. It’s important to close them, and allow yourself to move forward.

Scars are something that we all have on the inside and outside, but scars don’t lead to a painful and senseless infection of our spirit.

“There is something beautiful about all scars of whatever nature. A scar means the hurt is over, the wound is closed and healed, done with.”          Harry Crews