I know a few people who are embarrassed about the way they lived in the past. Conservatives who once were hippies (Personally, I don’t see the shame in being a hippy, but to each his own), peace activists who served in times of war, survivors of multiple marriages, former cult members who have since come to their senses… all have decided that they have reason to squirm when people ask them their story.
Hearing this always makes me feel profoundly sad. First of all, even if you feel you made mistakes years ago, the fact is that you’re a product of your mistakes as well as your triumphs. You wouldn’t be who you are today if not for all your past experiences, so even if they might make you uncomfortable, they still have value.
Second, by not being open and honest about your past history, you are missing out on some valuable teaching moments. I have learned a lot of wonderful life lessons by hearing people’s stories. “Well, I’ll never do that,” is a valid and worthy conclusion to draw. (So is, “Man, you used to be so cool! What happened?”)
How wonderful to learn from a mistake that you yourself don’t have to expend the energy to make! Even more wonderful to learn by example that you can change and evolve into something you never would have anticipated.
So if you feel you’ve erred, make amends if you can, serve your time if you must, and turn yourself in if justice needs doing, but don’t waste time with regrets. Don’t go through life wearing a cone of shame. Own it. Share it with others. That’s the best way to give your life significance.