Critical questionMany persons believe that to move up the ladder of success and achievement, they must forget the past, repress it, and relinquish it. But others have just the opposite view. They...

Critical question

Many persons believe that to move up the ladder of success and achievement, they must forget the past, repress it, and relinquish it. But others have just the opposite view. They see old memories as a chance to reckon with the past and integrate past and present. Adapted from Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, I've Known Rivers: Lives of Loss and Liberation

Do memories hinder or help people in their effort to learn from the past and succeed in the present?Support your position with reasoning and examples taken from your reading, studies, experience, or observations.

6 Answers | Add Yours

literaturenerd's profile pic

literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I think that memories serve specific functions depending upon the situation one finds them self in. Most bad memories are those where we have fallen from our path (mistakes). If we learn from the mistakes, we take the memories of what we did and use them to formulate how to act in the future. Good memories help keep us positive and moving forward. Some memories, when obsessed about, can tend to keep one from moving forward. Therefore, the importance and use of memories are simply what we make of them.

stolperia's profile pic

stolperia | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

It depends on the person. Martin Luther King, Jr. used memories and tales of experiences from the past as well as the present to illustrate the need and inspire his followers. Nelson Mandela didn't allow his past experiences to embitter his outlook, but built on that foundation to create a better future for himself and his people.

On the other hand, there are those who contend Hitler's hatred of Jews found its roots in early life encounters with Jews that he found humiliating or frustrating. He never forgave the Jewish doctor who treated his mother before she died.

litteacher8's profile pic

litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I think that some people are more naturally trusting than others.  Sometimes these people are good friends to most and get through life happily.  Sometimes they are taken advantage of by people who see them as vulnerable.  I think somewhere in the middle is best.

e-martin's profile pic

e-martin | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Writing on this question in an essay format, I would try to pick out a piece of literature featuring a story of how a memory from a character's past works as motivation for success or for the achievement of some task. And I would pick a memory of my own that works in the same way, as motivation for future goals.

The story of Hercules is the first that comes to mind as one of a past mistake leading to great deeds. (Hercules, in a blind fit of rage, kills his wife and child, then undertakes 12 tasks to pay penance.)

Other stories that feature character's motivated by something from the past: The Great Gatsby; Citizen Kane; Peter Pan; All the King's Men.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

It depends a lot on the person and their attitude towards life.  If you use your memories to drag you down and persuade you that you can't succeed, then they are not helpful.  But if you use them to teach you lessons and to give you a hunger to try harder, they are helpful.

rrteacher's profile pic

rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Our memories of the past are useful to us only if we are willing to think about them critically, in other words, as long as we don't assume that everything we did was right, and as long as we understand that our memories of the past are influenced by the present. As long as we're willing to reflect honestly on our experiences, the past can indeed be useful to us.

We’ve answered 318,935 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question