“He has taken nine months of your life you will never get back again. But the best punishment you could ever give him is be happy,” Elizabeth Smart’s mother guided her as Elizabeth integrated back into the life she’d known before her kidnapping. Smart was 14 when she was abducted from her bedroom in her Salt Lake City home. Nine months later she was rescued by police.
Smart has since studied music at Brigham Young University; married; and become an advocate, founding the Elizabeth Smart Foundation, which aims to prevent predatory crimes against children through education and supporting law enforcement in the rescue of victims. Those nine months have undoubtedly shaped the direction of Smart’s adult life, but they didn’t derail Smart from living a full life.
Smart’s experience as a victim of abduction is an outlier which, fortunately, most will not experience. Unfortunately, many of us fail to replicate Smart’s resilience and instead waste a considerable about of time rehashing past wrongs, immeasurably insignificant, far past their shelf life versus moving on from them. Perhaps we are motivated to relive past wrongs unconsciously, believing that we can make the perpetrator suffer through our indignation. Perhaps it is our desire to make sense of a frenetic world.
Whatever the cause, reliving the past versus being present in the now hurts no one but us by giving our power to an event that we can no longer influence. Smart’s mother understood this. Fulfillment won’t come with revenge or wallowing, but from getting on with it.