No regrets? How is that possible?
A phrase you hear alarmingly often in today's society is "I have no regrets."
I started thinking about that after, of all things, the finale last year of the TV reality/game show "Survivor." In a nutshell, one guy made brilliant and unexpected moves in the game, may have been the best purely strategic player ever, and came in second place. I'll admit, I hated the guy, but admired his skill. So did the "jury," which overwhelmingly awarded the title of "Sole Survivor" to a player who many admitted rode his coattails. The Guy, named Russell, was a great player, but never missed an opportunity to rub his prowess in other people's faces, denigrate them behind their backs, and made no secret that he had no respect for any of his adversaries.
When asked after the vote was held and he lost the $1 million purse for the show whether he had any regrets or would do anything differently, he replied quickly, "I have no regrets."
I hear people say that quite often. And it baffles me.
Let me say this: I have regrets. I have, certainly, hundreds of them. Almost definitely thousands. Could be in the millions, if you add them all up over a lifetime. There's no shame in that.
How can one go through a whole life and be convinced they did it perfectly? Even the best among us make mistakes, show our imperfections.
I think an errorless life would be almost unbearable. If you've done everything perfectly, and you're certain you're going to continue, what's the point?
My regrets range from the big ones to tiny moments that could have been handled differently.
Many of my regrets are those tiny moments, especially in relationships. The times I could have been less focused on something stupid, self-centered and trivial. The times I should have just realized my wife needed a hug, or telling someone I'm sorry could have diffused a situation that didn't need to be so difficult. I regret those. I regret all of the times I could have been kind to someone but instead was sarcastic or cold. I regret saying the wrong thing, even if I didn't know it was the wrong thing. I regret headlines I've written. I regret when I'm reading through an obituary and wish I had somehow gotten to know a person and written a great story about them. I regret not taking advantage of opportunities. I regret taking advantage of others, even unwittingly. I regret not stopping on the side of the road and helping that guy whose alternator gave out. I regret spending $10 foolishly when I could have given it to the Humane Society or the Food Shelf. I regret not standing up for someone who needed a champion or a role model. I regret not showing my parents more appreciation. I regret not calling on birthdays. I regret arguing with my sisters over what TV show to watch. I regret not telling friends who have died how much they meant to me before they were gone.
These regrets don't make me paralyzed by indecision or wracked with guilt. It just shows I acknowledge that the life I've lived isn't perfect, that I'm willing to review my own actions and make course corrections, and that with each passing year, I might, just might, become a better man.
I distrust anyone who says they have no regrets. To me, it usually means they've lost the ability to care or even notice that their actions harm others. How sad.
I don't want to wait until I'm 85 years old to start looking back over my life and seeing the errors I've made. I want to do it as I go, because there's time now to make up for being wrong, callous, greedy, stupid or aloof.
I like my regrets. They're a bunch of little lessons that teach you to how to act with integrity. And I wouldn't trade my life with anyone else's, regrets and all. I'd hate to have to learn all of these lessons over again.
My life has been filled with everything from triumph to failure, heartbreak to hilarity, nobility and selfishness. And regrets.
God, I'm so glad for the regrets.