[dropcap2 variation=”coffee”]R[/dropcap2]egrets. Life is full of them.
When we’re in the midst of loss or heavy stress, our mistakes seem to materialize out of nowhere. And they can be relentless.
And it’s not only about what we did, but what we didn’t do. “What if I had…” “If only I had thought to….”
If we’re not careful, guilt can overwhelm and even crush our hearts.
Putting regrets where they belong
“I’ve gone back in my mind so many times. Why is this happening? What did I do? I must deserve this somehow!” Carla said through her tears.
“Honestly, I feel lost, so lost,” she continued.
Carla was in her 50’s and had battled breast cancer for two decades. Now she had a few weeks at most. All the terrors, mistakes, and wonderings of the past came crashing in. She had little to no peace in her life.
I visited Carla several times over those next few weeks. She trusted me with her heart and the things she had buried there. She dug them up, one-by-one. We chose a word for each ugly memory and wrote them, one to a page, in a spiral notebook. Then, with what little strength she had, she crumpled them up, one sheet at a time, and dropped them into the trashcan I held beside the bed.
It was an exhausting process.
When the last crumpled-up regret left her hand, she sank back into her pillow and wept. It was one of those special, holy moments.
After several minutes, she turned her head, looked into my eyes, and smiled.
“Okay,” she said.
Carla died two days later.
How much pain can a heart handle?
How much pain and regret is buried in our hearts?
How much current frustration is being fueled by the wounds and regrets of the past?
How much is guilt weighing us down and keeping us from healing?
Maybe we should emulate Carla:
- Write down the regrets, what-if’s, and if-only’s that come to mind – one word to a sheet in a spiral notebook.
- Rip them out. Crumple them well.
- Toss them. Let them go.
- Take out the trash.
Sometimes forgiving others is easy compared to forgiving ourselves.
It’s what we do next that matters now
The world needs us. Those we love need us. We can’t afford to be burdened by the extra weight of regret and what might have happened if. These are bricks in our baggage. To live well, and live out our purpose, we must travel lighter.
It’s not what we did, but what we do next that matters now.
Imagine if we could learn from our mistakes and failures (real or imagined), and then release ourselves to live powerfully and with purpose in spite of them.
That would be healing in action.