I recently had a brief, but difficult texting conversation with one of my oldest friends. Several years ago he left his wife and family for a new life. New women…new surroundings. And for those friends who didn’t support his selfish decisions…well, suffice to say, they’re history, too.

Sound familiar? It’s going around.

Anyway, he called me bitter and spouted some psychobabble about never looking back, and how “God has no Plan B,” whatever that means. Is he saying any choice we make like this was meant to be in God’s eyes? I don’t know. I would have gone to the ends of the earth for this guy. I tried to reason with him as a brother, and he chose to squander a decades-long friendship along with everything else.

He’s a motivational speaker, and a damn good one, technically speaking. And he was half right about me being bitter—about losing my old mate, and having to watch his wife and grown kids, whom I adore and still walk alongside, suffer in the wake of his flight. I’ve let most of the bitterness go, but I will always remember the sting of rejection in their eyes that long-ago night when he left and I drove to Orange County to be with them.

He got me thinking about the importance of remembering. Not living in the past, but being guided by, and growing from, the peaks and valleys in our lives. And in the collective human experience. Remember that old adage: Those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it.

Six million Jews perished in the Holocaust. We must remember so that “never again” will another people be systematically destroyed like that.

Who will soon forget the brave acts of the passengers on United Airlines Flight 93 who tackled evil and drove that plane into the ground, sparing the White House or the U.S. Capitol building, our great symbols of democracy? How about our 3,000 innocent brothers and sisters who were sacrificed on the altar of despotism and hate at the Twin Towers, simply because they were Americans? We must remember!

It’s good to remember, right? Once a year we set aside a special day to remember and honor our brave men and women who gave what President Lincoln called in his Gettysburg address the “last full measure of devotion” to their country. And yes…

We stand before our precious flag while our national anthem blares through the winds of time…and we remember how thankful and privileged we are to be Americans. (I was born on July 4. Whad’ya expect!)

All of our major faiths tell us…remember. My pastor recently mentioned that the word “remember” appears 163 times in the Bible.

Jews are commanded to celebrate Pesach each year, so they might remember how the angel of death “passed over” the Jewish homes marked with the blood of an innocent lamb. And how God with great power parted the Red Sea and led a nation from Egyptian slavery into a promised land. Jesus told the apostles that night in the upper room as they celebrated his last Passover:

“…This is my body, broken for you. Do this to remember me.” (The Message)

Guys…did you watch your kids being born? Will not that vision remain in your memory banks until your dying breath? Your first kiss…your wedding day…a casual meal and glass of wine by the backyard fire pit with beloved friends…that boat ride through Paris on the Seine River. Fill in the blanks. We keep photos and videos to make sure we remember these precious memories.

How about we remember this one, my old friend…it’s not always about us. Your wrong-headed choices, which have cost you more than you realize, have helped me recall this lesson every day. Thank you for that.

To look back as we soar into a hopeful future is a good and healthy thing. If we don’t, we’ll forget the blessings so abundantly bestowed upon us. Like a loving marriage. The respect of our children. Freedom. Opportunity. The devotion of good friends. We may even forget where we stumbled and be tempted to repeat our mistakes.

While my buddy and I are no longer in a relationship, I will always remember how he made me laugh so hard I would sometimes cry. And how God used him one season to bring me into a lasting faith. My friend, whom I will always love, says never look back.

As for me…

I choose to remember.