One morning I was scanning the obituaries in the local paper (a daily ritual) when I noted the comment in one posting: "He lived his life with no regrets." I also noted this man had also requested no memorial service.
I can think of a number of things that I regret in the sense that I wish that I had handled them differently, Harrison observes.
I did not know this individual, but I started wondering, "What does it mean to live one's life with no regrets?" I cannot identify with the statement. Perhaps I am either too introspective or too guilt-ridden, but I can think of a number of things that I regret in the sense that I wish that I had handled them differently.
There are people that I knew in high school and college to whom I could have paid more attention. As a young person, I was too concerned about me (I guess it goes with the territory) and less concerned about how my remarks and attitudes might affect others. There were times that I treated others in inappropriate and disrespectful ways. I should have known better, but I didn't or chose not to.
I regret that I did not spend more time with my children when they were at home. I now see what a gift they have been to my life. The business of life and work interfered with family time. It often still does.
From time to time, I regret that I did not spend more time with those who are no longer with us – my grandson who died of cancer just short of his fifth birthday, my parents, longtime friends and mentors. These all enriched my life and more time with them would have blessed me and perhaps them.
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I regret that I was not aware of the needs of one friend who committed suicide. When I heard of her death, I was shocked and could not understand why I did not see this coming.
I could go on, but the point is that I do live with regrets about "the road(s) not taken." Regrets are based on actions we wish we had taken. I suppose we live with and learn from regrets by the way we deal with them.
First, I have to acknowledge these before God and ask for God's forgiveness.
Second, if possible, I need to share my regret with those involved. I don't expect forgiveness but I need to acknowledge my failings.
Third, I need to ask God to give me insight about myself based on these feelings. What do they say about my priorities, my values and my growth as a believer? In addressing these regrets, I can hopefully become a better person.
Life without regrets? No, I don't identify with that statement and I do not choose to practice it. I will live with my regrets
Ircel Harrison is an associate with Pinnacle Leadership Associates and director of the Murfreesboro Center of Central Baptist Theological Seminary. A version of this column appeared previously on his blog.