Creating Reversible Fixes
Sometimes you'll apply a change to the image, such as a blur, that must be performed on a layer and that will permanently affect that layer. Consider (for simplicity) the situation in which you have a layer with a flower on it and you need to blur the edges around the flower, but not the flower itself. You could select around the flower and then blur this area, but the change is permanent and can't be undone.
An alternative solution is to duplicate the layer with the flower on it and then blur the entire duplicate layer. Apply a layer mask to the blurred layer to hide the area you don't want blurred (the flower). Later on, you can edit the area that is blurred by editing the layer mask. You can also remove the blur layer by deleting this duplicate layer. Or you can apply a different amount of blur by repeating the process of duplicating the flower layer, blurring it, and applying a layer mask. You can do this because you still have the original flower layer in place.