Past Present: Why You Keep Making the Same Relationship Mistakes and Howl to Build a Healthier Life

Reviewed by:

Connor Salter, Professional Writing alumnus from Taylor University, Upland, IN.


Past Present: Why You Keep Making the Same Relationship Mistakes and Howl to Build a Healthier Life


Scott Vaudrey


Thomas Nelson

Publication Date:

July 28, 2021




256 pages


We all think that our upbringings were normal, and none of us really want to untangle everything we experienced growing up. However, understanding the story we were given going up is key to becoming healthy adults. As Scout Vaudrey puts it, we must understand what narrative we were given so that we can forge a healthier narrative now. He takes readers through how we form our personal narratives when we are children, how the subconscious and conscious brain work together to create responses based on those experiences, and how to rewrite those responses.

As with any book using the “understand your story” concept, it’s hard not to see the shadow of deeper books like Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Even readers not familiar with Campbell will know books like Alan Ehler’s How to Make Big Decisions Wisely which apply the concept to careers. Vaudrey’s approach is explaining the concept in therapeutic terms (what factors influence children, what happens biochemically when we choose forgiveness) and how to change things on a day-to-day basis. It’s a “nuts and bolts” look at the subject, but Vaudrey writes well and the material pairs nicely with his earlier book about relationship boundaries.

The book is especially helpful when Vaudrey talks about forgiveness versus reconciliation, and exploring versus ruminating on our past. Plenty of books say why forgiveness is important, and the value of talking about our pasts to achieve catharsis. Vaudrey highlights that forgiveness means releasing resentment, it doesn’t mean pardoning or excusing toxic behavior, nor require us to trust dangerous people who haven’t changed. When he talks about exploring our pasts, he warns readers there is a difference between talking about what happened to let pain go, versus ruminating on it constantly. Many books leave these subjects vague, creating pitfalls that Vaudrey is careful to lead readers away from. Given recent conversation about church leaders hiding each other’s toxic behavior, these insights also feel very topical.

Without being groundbreaking, the book is insightful and useful.


Rating (1 to 5 stars):

3 stars

Suggested Audience:

People interested in understanding how their views of themselves and the world come from past experiences, and how to get past conditioning to cultivate better worldviews.

Christian Impact:

Without explicitly mentioning the Bible, Vaudrey does a great job of explaining how a healthy life requires recognizing past pain, forgiving without forgetting, and balancing justice with mercy and a yearning for truth.

Past Present: How to Stop Making the Same Relationship Mistakes---and Start Building a Better Life

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