How often do we spend our precious moments of solitude engaging in imaginary conversations with the people who have wronged us?

As we shower in the morning we re-live a fight with a friend. As we empty the dishwasher we think about that thing our coworker said three weeks ago that knocked us off balance. As we drive to work, our minds wander back to that person we haven’t spoken to in years and that hurtful thing she never apologized for.

We rehearse all the clever, witty things we should have said to each of them back when we had the chance, formulating what can best be described as an eviscerating closing statement to a case we’d win by a landslide in the court of public opinion. We think of this rehearsal as some kind of preparation for a performance to come. We keep the hurts fresh and top of mind because holding them close makes us feel stronger.

But we’re not stronger, are we?

Wading deep into the still waters of our souls, we tell ourselves we’re searching for peace and solace— when really, all we’re doing is kicking up the muck and mire on the bottom of the ocean floor. Churning and churning in the muddied waters of our own making, is it any wonder we never feel clear or content?

The thing is, the more we re-live those past hurts, the more we strengthen them. The more we enshrine them. The more we become them.

The more time we spend chained to a place in the past that has nothing left to teach us, the more we begin to feel like prisoners in our own lives.

And the more we stop picking at old wounds, the more we begin to understand that which has been true all along: The act of allowing ourselves to heal doesn’t exonerate our perpetrators.

It merely releases us from their grip.