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 that I had let myself be happier.
This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have sillyness in their life again. When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.
As Ware observed, “happiness is a choice.” This is wisdom that is often overlooked. We cannot control the situations in our life but we can control how we react to them. I wrote another post on how we can find blessings in adversity. We can choose to see the good or bad in our lives but we must remember that it is our judgment of the events and that the events themselves are neutral. A person may lose their job and consider it a bad event but find an even better job so that the event that was initially considered bad (losing the job) became a great blessing. I take comfort that God makes all things work together for the good for His children, Romans 8:28. Even in the time of darkness we can find sunlight and comfort when we realize this work of God in our lives.
Consider the sadness described in Ecclesiastes 6:1-9:
There is an evil that I have seen under the sun, and it lies heavy on mankind: a man to whom God gives wealth, possessions, and honor, so that he lacks nothing of all that he desires, yet God does not give him power to enjoy them, but a stranger enjoys them. This is vanity; it is a grievous evil. If a man fathers a hundred children and lives many years, so that the days of his years are many, but his soul is not satisfied with life’s good things, and he also has no burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he. For it comes in vanity and goes in darkness, and in darkness its name is covered. Moreover, it has not seen the sun or known anything, yet it finds rest rather than he. Even though he should live a thousand years twice over, yet enjoy no good—do not all go to the one place? All the toil of man is for his mouth, yet his appetite is not satisfied. For what advantage has the wise man over the fool? And what does the poor man have who knows how to conduct himself before the living? Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the appetite: this also is vanity and a striving after wind. (ESV)
There was a sight that depressed Solomon and was a burden for men: people blessed by God who did not enjoy or appreciate what they had. It was considered a great thing to have many children but if one had a hundred children and lived a long life but couldn’t be happy with the simple joys of life, a child who was born dead was better off than him! Some work hard but do not appreciate what they have because they are always wanting more. Some cannot appreciate the wisdom they have and so a poor man who knows what is important, who knows how to live life, is better off than the scholar.
We must learn to be happy and content with what we have instead of constantly wanting more. Such is an empty life. Remember the words of 1 Timothy 6:6-10:
But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (ESV)
Happiness for Young People
Remember what we observed earlier from Ecclesiastes 11:9-10:
Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment. Remove vexation from your heart, and put away pain from your body, for youth and the dawn of life are vanity. (ESV)
Allow yourself to be happy. Don’t worry about what others think of you. If you are pleasing God and not sinning, do what you enjoy. Enjoy the simple things around you: the warmth of the sun on your face, the smell of a cooking meal, the smile of a friend, the hug of a loved one, time spent doing what you enjoy with people you like, and a hundred other things you can list. Ecclesiastes 3:4 says there is a time to laugh and dance. Take the time to be happy.
Other posts in the Series:
Regret 1: I Sacrificed My Dreams to Please Others
Regret 2: Missed Much by Working Too Much
Regret 3: I Wanted the Courage to Express My Feelings
Regret 4: I Miss My Friends