Misplaced Nostalgia

Marriages, careers, business, friendships, and countries alike all suffer in the throws of improper nostalgia. It’s an unhealthy analysis of the then for the sake of warm fuzzy and the cost is the now. Athletes can get stuck on what they’ve done in the past with no regard to what needs to be done now. Coaches, Pastors, Churches, Business, Couples, Families… It happens to the lot of us. 

Peter, James, and John climb up a mountain top and see a transfigured Jesus standing next to Moses and Elijah, and all they can want to do is build temples right then and there to worship. They want to worship where God is at the moment at the expense of where God leading them. 

Now I keep hearing anti-nostalgic quotes or nostalgic quotes about America the not-so-great or the once-was-great. And it frustrates me, there isn’t conversation on how to work to produce something great in the future only despair at the current state of affairs measured up against half considered notions of the past. If that happened for an athlete or to a company, they’d be headed for the end of their career pretty fast. 

We can’t focus on the past inaccurately or accurately to the exclusion of the present. 

In no way do I think we should forget the past: how else can we learn, improve, or refine our ideas and practices? But propping up the past in such a way that we worship it without any real consideration to what was going on? That only serves to let us spiral down. 

These are the ways I try to avoid misplaced nostalgia:

1) Humility – Never assume that anything was perfect. A little humility goes a long way to setting our sights on a dynamic concept of perfection instead of a static concept of perfection. This is a sense of perfection as a position of growth (a perfect tree is a growing tree). It’s been phrased as choosing between perfectionism and excellence. 

2) Creativity – Regardless of the field we need new combinations of ideas and thoughts to grow. When we start to loose passion we stop seeking new ways of expressing ourselves or improving. A cook that doesn’t try new dishes or a programmer that doesn’t make new programs atrophies in their ability to look forward. Just like an athlete that stops fine tuning their training, they stop improving. 

3) Study – Looking for the new and learning from the old has to be a foundation. It’s easy to be humble when you believe or (even better) know those that are better thinkers working on the same thing you are passionate about. At the very least they will think differently to the benefit of collaboration.




About Sean Smith

Husband, Father, Pastor, Swimmer, Writer, Reader, and attempted Adventurer!
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