The seminal stories of the Bible seem to be an allegory for the ongoing arrogance that destroys people, their progeny, and their progeny's progeny. When will we realize that we are all a community who have no permanent secrets? All action has an equal and opposite reaction, no matter how far back in time we have wished it to be different.
It seems to me that the greatest mistake we make is in trying to keep our sins secrets from those with whom we are most closely connected. Isn't that the message of the story of Adam and Eve? Wasn't the fatal problem that they attempted to hide their mistake from the provider of their paradise, rather than come clean and ask for a fresh start?
And what of Cain and Able? Wasn't the beginning of his alienation that Cain didn't ask for clarification of his own worth and that of his brother before killing his brother in a jealous rage? Instead of admitting his error, he further alienated himself from his family by denying his crime against his community. How would things have been different if Cain's elders were consulted in an atmosphere of humility, honesty, and openness to learning from those who have most investment in the community?
As a child, I tired of listening to my elders speak of the errors of others, but I rarely, if ever, heard them admit their own mistakes. The men seemed to brag about what they had done that was against the rules of our religion, while the women seemed too ashamed to talk about errors of their own pasts. Authority figures absolutely never said that they were sorry for anything they did or said, except in the privacy of the confessional.
My father would take a Saturday night bath and go to confession. He would come home beaming and announce, "Your old dad is clean inside and out." I never understood how this helped in healing the wounds he had inflicted on our family? I often hear Christians say that they have confessed their sins to their God, and that their souls are healed. How is this possible when they have wounded the community of fellow humans by their actions? Did not Jesus say that what is done to one of the parts of the his community, we also do to him, and by extension, The Almighty? Is not the overarching story of salvation, a coming back to perfect community with all of creation?
Only when we are willing to hear what has already been tried can we avoid eternal repetition of the errors of our elders. This presupposes that our elders are honest and humble enough to admit their errors and to seek to make their own amends. Only when we work for forgiveness from those we have harmed can new community commence. Only by heeding guidance from our elders who lead by their own examples can we keep community intact.