What is the use of beating a dead horse? However long and hard we keep beating it, it will never rise to gallop again; it is dead. By continuously beating it, we not only tire ourselves but choose to live in an unrealistic world, hoping against hope that reality will eventually turn out to be different from other than what it is. What we need is a deep feeling of gratitude for its life and its life of service and wishing it the best as it moves on to another dimension of life.
Are we still beating dead horses in our life? May be or may not be. If the answer is in the affirmative, isn’t it time to stop beating them and move on with life? Whether the following examples reflect our life or not at least let it invite us to know if there is a pattern of beating dead horses in our life.
In spite of our sincere desire to love and to remain faithful to God we do at times go astray. We walk down the wrong path far too long and only when we have lost our fair-weather friends and everything that apparently defined us we realize that all that glittered was not gold and real (like the Prodigal Son). This realization sets us on the journey of conversion knowing deep down in our hearts that the God whom we have abandoned is eagerly waiting to welcome us back home with unconditional love and longing to give everything back to us. All that we need to do is to rise and walk back home. But, living with unhealthy guilt we keep repeating to ourselves “Oh father I have sinned against you and heaven. I am no longer worthy to be called your son/daughter. I have betrayed you and broken your trust and I don’t deserve to be taken back. I don’t deserve your forgiveness. Hell is my place.” The purpose of guilt is not to make us feel worthless and to be filled with remorse, it is not meant to constantly remind us that we have betrayed God, it is not to make us get stuck in a pigsty forever but to make us realize that we have a choice to rise and go home where unconditional love and mercy are waiting for us. Choosing to stay with guilt is beating a dead horse in my spiritual life. In the face of forgiveness there is absolutely no place for constant rumination of my sinful past. Let us not waste our precious time, energy, and life on what has happened. It is time to celebrate life knowing that nothing is lost between God and us.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
It is not an exaggeration to say that as parents we not only feed our children with our thoughts but even want them to think like us. We tend to define their individuality and even draw their life blueprints. Constantly we keep filling their tiny little heads with our expectations for them. We dream their dreams and even expect them to fulfill our dreams. We even plan their life meticulously. We tend to write the script for their life and even how it should end. But children as they grow begin to develop their own way of thinking and begin to develop their own thoughts on life, God, religion, values, and what they want from life and they have their dreams and write their own script which has its own ending. If, as parents, we revolt and lead them on a guilt trip we are beating a dead horse. Let us give them our love and not our thoughts. Let us be there for them to share our stories and wisdom. God will be their guide leading them to realize their life’s purpose.
When someone has moved on to a different walk of life or embraced a different faith but if I keep gossiping that he/she should have remained true to his/her faith, religion, and walk of life then I am beating a dead horse. What I need is a compassionate understanding and a heart that is ready to listen without judgments. By holding onto the dead horse I not only lose a relationship but also to use a Richard Rohr’s metaphor, because the container has changed I reject the content too.
When someone, after a divorce, has moved on and is blissfully happy with their new life, and his/her spouse continue to gossip and tarnish name of the other, in the hope of teaching him/her a lesson and even remotely entertaining the idea that one day he/she will return, then that person is beating a dead horse. Playing the blame game over and over again is not going to resurrect a relationship that is dead. Isn’t the best course of action to learn from the mistakes made, wishing the other best in their new life, be filled with gratitude for the relationship they had, and to move on with life?
We are social beings and relationships offer meaningful avenues to live and express our social nature. As human beings we find ourselves in a network of relationships and the concentric circle of relationships brighten our life with color and beauty. One such beautiful relationship is friendship (it is said that our friends are God’s way of saying sorry for our relatives). But it is possible that even the best of friendships can turn sour and come to an end for various reasons. In spite of all attempts to resurrect a friendship that has gone cold and dead, is like beating a dead horse. Isn’t it better to stop worrying about it and however painful it is, to respect the decision of the friend? When a relationship breaks, pain is inevitable but sorrow is optional. Choose not to react but to respond. Let your response for the friend come from prayer and from a compassionate heart.
“If you love someone, set them free. If they come back they are yours; if they don’t they never were.”
It is never too late to stop beating the dead horses in our life.