Photo: Copyright Duane Story, Dog https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/ Flickr https://goo.gl/uvh8Bc
Edmund Burke is quoted as saying, “Those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it.” I don’t know the context of his comments but I do know that he was supportive of the American colonies against King George III in the British House of Commons. Maybe he saw the proverbial writing on the wall.
In a conversation I recently had with my nephew, an adjunct professor at Concordia University in Portland, he believes that Burke didn’t go far enough. There are many people who have known their history quite well and still have repeated its failures. Hitler was well aware of Roman history and purposefully tried to repeat it. My nephew suggest a tweak to Burke’s quote. Those who don’t learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it.
I find that this statement applies to my personal history. I know the stories of the good, the bad and the ugly of my family history, at least as they have been communicated to me and as I have paid attention to them, but I find myself still repeating some of that history.
Stubbornness is a part of my history. I remember my father and grandfather arguing over how a cloud formed at the apex of a plume of smoke. We were golfing on a course surrounded by grass seed fields that were being burned following harvest. My father said one thing and my grandfather another. The argument lasted many holes and was never settled because they were both stubborn.
And I’ve repeated this history.
I got into an argument with a family member over a dog. Now understand there was nothing appealing about this dog. You didn’t know which end of the dog was which until it started moving. It was small, anti-social and peed on the carpet…always, but we argued about taking this dog on a trip. We both perceived the situation from our own point of view and dug in our heels. Nobody won. History had repeated itself. I had not learned my “golfing” lesson, and as a result both of us ended up damaged.
We might be frustrated that world leaders appear uninterested in learning the lessons of history, but it’s more important that we learn from our own personal histories.
The greatest gift that God gives us in this battle to change our personal histories is the gift of forgiveness. Our past mistakes are buried with Christ, and today is a new day. With God’s grace as the power behind our change, may we face our histories and give thanks to God that we are not doomed to repeat them.