I’ve always been one of those people who wanted to learn from other people’s mistakes, see the road signs others had left behind, and attempt to walk a smoother path. I took it to heart when my mother quoted from the poem Warning by Jenny Joseph when I was a teenager: “When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple.” It was the first time I realized that growing old can come with regrets.
I read and re-read Erma Bombeck’s column “If I Had My Life to Live Over” when I was in high school. Her urging to light the candle shaped like a rose before it melts in storage got me to thinking even more – what can I do now to live my life with the fewest regrets?
One of my favorite movies is Jennifer Garner’s “13 Going on 30.” It’s fun and funny and shows a girl/woman learning important life lessons in a funny way. But I really, really disagree with how the writers wrote the key scene. When Jennifer’s character asks her mother about mistakes and regrets, her mother says she doesn’t regret her mistakes because she learned from them. I absolutely regret every time I’ve hurt someone, intentionally or unintentionally, no matter what lesson I learned from the experience.
I hate hurting people, whether they’re friends, family, acquaintances, or strangers. But sometimes I feel like I’m all sharp edges, constantly hurting someone no matter which way I turn. I often feel like I think of others and their pain too little, doing too little to help; and too often I feel overwhelmed by the amount of pain in the world. It’s everywhere, in everyone, sometimes like an iceberg so that you don’t see how much the people around you ache.
But then I’ll read something like the beginning of 2 Corinthians:
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.”
Life is fragile, so easily broken or destroyed. We, too, are an odd combination of strong and fragile. I think it’s interesting that during the fragile times when we rely on others’ strength through their compassion, our inner strength is being galvanized so that we can pass it on to the next person, supporting them in our compassion when they feel fragile.
Forgiveness is a form of compassion. And I think that is the one thing that keeps me from feeling completely isolated and alone – knowing that most people whom I have hurt have long ago forgiven me. I hope all the people who have hurt me and regretted it believe that I have forgiven them as well. Then we can all continue to participate in the compassion of Christ, giving and receiving comfort together.
Perhaps this is one way we can live our lives with the fewest regrets.