Years ago, in my family, we started using the term “no regrets.” Basically, we all kind of came around to the idea that when someone is dying, you should be able to, shall we say, send them off to greener pastures, without obsessing over how we should have spent more time with them, been kinder to them, been more understanding or generous.
Basically – do the right thing now so you won’t regret not doing it later. This began in my mid teens and it has really stuck with me. I really do make an effort to engage with others in a way that I won’t later regret. That doesn’t mean I don’t have conflict – I have plenty of that. And I fall short at this when stressed or tired. But I do seek to take time, to make peace, to be generous with my words, to make sure people know what they mean to me. I’m not great at this, but I make a real effort. Sometimes I want to hold a grudge or ignore a need or pretend I didn’t see the “missed call” on my phone. But a common prayer of mine is that I would put the needs and interests of others above my own. Because regrets suck.
My friend and coworker whose wise and encouraging words can be read here: www.dougsmithlive.com recently quoted some famous leader as saying you should greet people and spend time with them as if it’s the first time getting to know them and part ways as though it’s the last time. I never thought of it quite that way before but that’s a helpful thing to consider and put into practice.
Sports people say something like “leave it all on the field.” I think it’s a Vince Lombardi quote. I say do that with life and especially relationships.
We all know the drama queens who, when someone dies, they sob and shake their fists and wail and say stuff like “I never told him I loved/forgive/appreciate him!” Ew. What a terrible way to live.
Relationships are hard. Loving people is risky. You’ll get hurt. You’ll be disappointed. But when you give up, check out, or lock the door on a relationship that doesn’t truly warrant it (yes, there are times to lock the door and throw away the key – abusers, for example) you’re setting yourself up for regret. You can ignore that family member who is a little draining. You can skip the hospital visit, the 80th birthday, the driveway across the street you know you should shovel. You can find 100 excuses. But those excuses are the breeding ground for self-centeredness. And self-centeredness, if left unchecked, will end in regret.
So, a reminder to myself and anyone who doesn’t want to be at the funeral feeling like a jagoff:
Send the flowers
Write the note
Forgive the offense
Give the foot rub
Bake the cookies
Accept the apology
Say thank you
Point out the talent
Give the hug
Erase the debt
Hold the hand
Mend the fence
Leave it all on the field.