Years ago Cathy and I traveled with another couple to a park near their hometown. After we arrived, they pointed to an old store and said: “The ice cream there is great!” So we bought some. Bad idea.
After our first few licks, Cathy and I looked at each other with the same unenthusiastic expression. Great ice cream? Hardly. It tastes like chemicals.
Then it hit me. What was “great” to the other couple had nothing to do with the ice cream they lapped with gusto. They simply savored the childhood memory of getting ice cream at that store.
Nostalgia flavors the facts. On one hand, that’s a good thing. It serves us great memories.
But on the other hand, it also offers significant risks.
That ice cream cone got me to thinking how our recall of events colors the truth of them. We’ll think:
- Small towns are better for relationship than big cities.
- This way of studying the Bible is most effective.
- My grad school offers the finest education in the country.
- The best way to relax is to watch a movie.
- Quality family time includes long conversations.
- True worship requires an organ, choir robes, hymns, and a King James Bible (just like the Apostle Paul had).
See how we glorify nostalgia? Ironically, the facts remain somewhat incidental to our memory of those facts.
The Good and Bad of Glorified Nostalgia
No matter how hard we try to remember something objectively, we really only recall our lives through the filter of our emotions. That can be both good and bad. Your loving childhood, for example, may minimize the fact you grew up poor. Or your experience with an absent parent can smear the fact you grew up in a nice house. It works both ways.
The same good and bad happens with nostalgia. A simple example:
- Good: Nostalgia allows you to enjoy ice cream that tastes like chemicals.
- Bad: Nostalgia causes you to recommend ice cream that tastes like chemicals.
Bottom line? Even our wonderful memories can blind us to the truth and make us poor decision makers.
The Cure for a Glorified Nostalgia
We can counter the danger of a glorified nostalgia by seeking and including the counsel of others when making decisions. Proverbs 11:14 says it this way:
Where there is no guidance the people fall,
But in abundance of counselors there is victory.
Each person brings to the table his or her own flavored version of experience. But collectively, an “abundance of counselors” points to a wise course. If we only take our own counsel, we will make poor decisions. That’s why we need the humility to seek the counsel of those we live with, serve with, and lead with.
We need others’ perspectives—including God’s, most of all.
Our private memories and experiences—even when they were wonderful—can blind us to the truth.
Tell me what you think: How have you glorified nostalgia? To leave a comment, just click here.