As I was reading chapter 10 of “Keep It Shut” this week, I was drawn to one of the nine tips that Karen Ehman shared for keeping our words productive. This tip was “don’t get historical.” In fact, when I first read this phrase I thought it said, “don’t get hysterical.” I thought that was solid advice—no one really ever has anything great to say when they are hysterical. Then, I read it again and realized what it really said—don’t bring up history when having a discussion, especially in conflict.
I am the kind of person who likes to focus on the moment at hand and the days and weeks and months that are ahead. I rarely enjoy looking back, especially at moments that were less than stellar. My thought is just let bygones be bygones and plan for a better today. Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians chapter thirteen that love does not keep a record of wrongs—love does not get historical. We often read that passage in Corinthians in the context of romantic love (i.e., it is read at every other wedding I am at). However, the word used in this passage is more general and applies to the love that Christ has for us and that we should have for each other.
Don’t get historical.
When there are things that are bygones, let them remain as that. What is a bygone you might ask? Things that you have already discussed, things where there has already been an understanding established, things that have been dealt with already, things that have no more words necessary—these are bygones. And so, if you want to have a productive conversation that moves you and the other person forward in positive ways, do not dwell on bygones.
There may be some historical things that you want to bring up. This might seem like a contradiction, but bear with me. Sometimes there may be difficult things that are historical where words have not been shared. Perhaps you have not discussed this, perhaps there is no understanding, perhaps it has not been dealt with, and perhaps words are necessary. In this case, follow all the other guidelines—choose your timing, believe the best, temper your tone, and trade places…imagine how you would feel on the other end.
Once you have the historical conversation and reach a settlement, file the conversation under bygones. Let bygones be bygones.
Today and tomorrow will have enough troubles to talk about. Keep a short account, deal with the past quickly, and then let bygones be bygones.
Matthew 6:34 “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Ephesians 4:26 “…do not let the sun go down on your wrath.”