Several years ago, a former palliative care nurse, Bronnie Ware, wrote a widely circulated article, based on her discussions with dying patients, describing the regrets they shared with her in their final period of life. The top five were featured in an article on her site and she has since turned the article into a book. Last week the web site addicted2success listed 10 Regrets In Life By Those About To Die. This week I am discussing five of those regrets.
I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result. We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win. (Ware)
Fear of Feelings
Sometimes we live in fear of how others will react to our feelings and so we hide them instead of sharing them. Sometimes wise to restrain our lips (Proverbs 10:19) and a foolish person lets his annoyance be known at once (Proverbs 12:16). However, there are times when we need to speak up to let our voice be heard and to express our feelings. We may need to express our feelings to protect ourselves from the purposeful or accidental actions of others. Sometimes people are anxious to know what we are really feeling, who we really are, and what we think even if it conflicts with their position.
Feelings are part of what makes us human. Feelings are given to us by God as natural expressions of our inner thoughts and desires. Our feelings must be united with our mind to achieve balance in our lives but we should not consider our feelings wrong or evil. We should not trust our feelings completely but also not deny what they are trying to tell the mind. We must exercise wisdom when we reveal our feelings (Proverbs 13:16) and do so in a way that is productive and helpful (1 Corinthians 8:1). We should not fear what we feel and how others will react.
You Cannot Control the Reaction of Others
An important principle I have taught my children is that you can control what you do but you can’t control how others will react. Someone may react negatively to something you did with a positive intention. You are not responsible for how they react. Likewise, expressing your feelings, your reaction to what they are doing may encourage them to change their behavior so that their actions or words are not destructive or hurtful. You are able to express the respect you expect from others and what behavior you will not tolerate. I have had people start yelling in a discussion and I tell them, “I will leave (or hang up) if you do not change your tone and we will have to talk later but I will not allow you to yell at me.” At times I have had to act on that threat and resume the discussion later but it is necessary to tell others what behavior you will not accept.
It is extremely sad to hear someone standing over the casket or grave of a loved one expressing regret over something they didn’t say. Pride may keep us from saying we’re sorry. Some people have difficulty saying “I love you,” “I appreciate you,” or “Thank you.” Simple words that would mean so much to the people in our lives remain unsaid when we do not have the courage to speak these precious feelings. We do not know when we or our loved ones will die. Having lost a lot of special people in my life when I was young, I learned to tell people what I appreciate about what they do or what they mean in my life. Most of all, let people know that you love them. Right now, someone wants to hear that you love them and appreciate them. It might be that elderly person at church, your grandparents, parents, or a friend who is feeling down. If you have such encouragement to give, why not take the courage to do it? Both you and they will feel better for it. Ecclesiastes 9:5-6 tells us that love and hate perish with us so leave the love behind with others!
A post I shared on Facebook spoke to taking advantage of the opportunities to express love today and it resonated with a lot of people:
There are many places I thought I’d return to or people I’d see again. If I didn’t think I’d see you again I’d have lingered a little longer, hugged a little tighter, and left a little slower. Enjoy the moment, the places, and people. Things change. The journey continues. Make the memories worth reliving.
Other posts in this series: