Monday, September 01, 2008

Is History Really Our Teacher?

History is a mirror that reflects the future. Look away from the glass, and you quickly forget the image you just glimpsed. Study the likeness; you’ll be a wiser person.

History is a great tutor to a humble and teachable person. It seems that rulers and legislators seldom learn from the past because people in power think of themselves as making history; leaving a legacy. There is little that a single individual can do about that. But a person can learn from his own history and minimize the effects of repeating past mistakes or generational bad habits.


Learn from your own family history. Don’t use your parents’ bad habits as an excuse to perpetuate the same misdeeds in your own life. It’s no secret that abusive parents raise abusive children. Alcoholic fathers condemn their sons to chemical dependency. Likewise, deadbeat dads put sons on a course of absenteeism. Manipulative moms grow daughters that are control freaks. The only parenting lessons we get are the ones learned at home. You, no doubt, have good memories of fun family times, but what leaves more of an impression on our psyches are events that leave scars. How can we break the destructive patterns that make holidays and family reunions hell?


If you’ve ever worked in retail, it’s your job to separate the stuff that sell from the pieces that collect dust and the bobbles with too much lead in the paint. What do you have to work with? List your assets. Take account of your detriments. You need to know what is moving you forward and what’s holding you back. Write some things down about yourself. Be honest. And then figure out what needs to change. Are you repeating your history? Or worse, are you repeating someone else’s?


“Momma did it that way and her momma before her did, too.” That might work for cooking a Thanksgiving turkey, but that’s no way to live a life. It’s good to pass healthy traditions down through the generations along with secret recipes. But don’t pass down the skeletons in the closet. Open up that closet and give it a good spring cleaning. Let in some light and fresh air, and make it a positive and useful place to store up and showcase good habits.


If you haven’t talked to your mother in fifteen years and you have a teenaged daughter, you may not know it, but you are teaching her to not communicate with you in the decade to come. She’s learning how to relate to her mother from you, mom. Teach your kids to forgive without conditions by forgiving unconditionally. Not only will you set someone free who may have wronged you, you are setting yourself free as a bonus. Teach your brood how valuable and liberating forgiveness can be.


You can plot vengeance, plan retaliation, and prove how right you are. Or you can take the same energy and learn how to pass your offenders by. Don’t spend another day wasting mental energy on the people who’ve wronged you. Leave them in a cloud of dust. Glance at them from time to time in the rear-view mirror, but keep your eyes on the road ahead of you. That’s the fastest way to get to your destination.


If you neglect your reflection long enough, you yourself won’t be much to look at. You need the mirror to take care of yourself properly. Understanding a little bit about history will help you have a more productive and fruitful future. Leave a healthy legacy and a good example to follow. Make your history worth repeating by future generations.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great post! I've often wondered why legislators and rulers don't pay more attention to history, but what you said makes sense.

Of course, many individuals do not look at their own family history, even if they desperately want to be different. Few manage to do better, that way.