I was busy working away in my smallish cubicle when a co-worker, Jack, happens by. It’s nearly past the usual lunch time; I worked through it without noticing. Jack, was finally hungry and all his usually lunch friends were gone. He zeroes in on me, oh the luck.
“Hey, Tim… wanna get something to eat with me?”
“Sure, I guess I could use some food.” I replied.
So, off we go in Jack’s car to a local Mexican food restaurant. We settle in after a few minute and begin the dance of small talk that accompanies infrequent meals with ‘sometime’ friends. I’m not precisely sure what brought on the next exchange, out of nowhere Jack directs the subject to something that must have been on his ever so self-centered mind.
“I don’t regret a thing I’ve done!” he says.
“Really? Not one thing to apologize for?”
“Nope. If I say something that hurts someone, it’s their problem not mine. They shouldn’t wear their feelings on their shirt sleeves.”
I just had to clarify this a bit,
“So, let me get this straight, you’ve never DONE anything that you wished you could take back and make right? Nothing that you would have changed about choices you made?”
“Hell no!” Jack says with some ring of pride.
The lunch continues with more of Jack’s declarations of independent thinking. The Gods of Greek mythology would brim with pride if this proud sod were one of their whelps. I must admit to being caught off guard by these ruminations. Damn him, I couldn’t get this subject out of my head.
Of course not all regrets are the stuff of a “bad” decisions, sometimes all the best information can lead us down a regrettable path. So, here I am considering events in my life that meandered to the low ground.
I thought about an event while in seventh grade. Trying to ‘hang’ with a popular wrestler at my junior high school I became an unwilling participant in hurting a friendly curly haired dog. Heading home on foot one Fall day we walked through quiet neighborhood enroute home. This teenager, just two years older than me, and someone I thought I could look up to, wanted to test my moral ballast; he asked me to coax the critter over to us which I did willingly. And without explanation he kicked the pooch in the head, sending it off like a shanked field goal. The stunned dog stumbled off in the direction of its home, not sure of what it did to deserve the beating. Mind you, I didn’t actually do the hurting, but it was the first time my lack of immediate intervention led to this disgusting conclusion. I still regret being an unwitting party to this sad event. I never spent another moment with this vile human, he was Lucifer to me, forever damned. (As an aside, he continued into a life frequently on the business end of both police and judges.)
I remember in tenth grade deciding to drop out of high school sports because I wanted to be “free to spread the gospel to a dying world.” In those days I was sure Jesus was coming before 1980. On reflection, I missed out on making memories that all my friends have between themselves. For my part, I can only recount the few glorious moments of athletic achievement from grade school and junior high. Those stories wear thin quickly. The more I rub shoulders with reclaimed friendships from my high school days, the more I regret not staying that course. I wish I had better advice at that young age.
I remember the horror I felt at discovering my fiancée had spent months hiding a likely “deal killer” habit, and learning of it just two short weeks before our nuptials. I had the opportunity to exit but failed to see the long term consequences of this type of elaborate deception. We remained married for 15 ugly years. This is the regret of folklore proportions, I didn’t see the high ground of life for years after that. Later I formulated a saying that has served me well in righting the ship.
“We usually have enough information to make the right decisions, but fail to act until some sort of long term harm is done.”
I remember during my second marriage discovering the budding extra-martial affair my wife was engaged in. I thought she was sufficiently repentant when confronted and agree to “make it work.” I ignored all the information that suggested “where there was one affair, there were more.” It all ended badly a year later upon discovery of more affairs. Only this time she hid them by enthusiastically encouraging the purchase of beachfront property and a new home in the span of three months. The ruse in this case goes something like this, “why would he ever suspect me of having an affair if I’m so willing to plan a future with him.” Now, faced with certain divorce, I was left with both the beachfront property and home; the words “boat anchor”comes to mind about these two purchases. I still own both, they still weigh heavy on my finances. I regret not acting to end the sham of a marriage after the first affair was discovered.
Ok, enough of these sad tales, back to the real issue at hand… Does regret really make me a better person? To that question I say a resounding YES! A person without regrets is usually arrogant and completely self involved. Jack would look down on me with disgust, but his lot in life is one of emptiness and at some point complete confusion about it all when he is finally at his end.
Never leave a situation without a better plan than you had going in! Here are the lessons learned from these few events that I carry, they have made me a better man.
Ruffians are just that, ruff and usually well deserving of their reputation. Nothing good ever came from trying to sit at the feet of such folk.
Second, it is the common experiences, rather than all the uniqueness of the adventurer, that make us feel connected in life. Sports is a proving ground for many kids, a chance to rub shoulders and measure one’s self against peers. It’s the place to learn solid decision making that benefits the team. Like the saying goes, there is no “i” in team. The effort to change the world will require far more time to accomplish, and won’t be hindered by a few short memorable years in high school.
Third, bad decisions CAN follow you for a life time, it’s always best to correct the situation at the earliest possible moment. For many this is about career choices or marriages. I’ve changed both. I’ve discovered the redemption a course correction brings and the belief things will be better from now on.
Fourth, it may be saintly to forgive and forget, but since I’m not a saint I’m better off to forgive and git! Or as I put it to my second wife, “Go with God, but just GO!”
Fifth, words can hurt or heal. Verbal arrows that leave the bow can never be returned. They may not hit the mark you intended but they will most certainly hit something tender. The “shoot from the hip” strategy is reckless, be considerate in what you say. “Damn the consequences” usually concludes with consequences that will damn you.
I wonder if I’ll regret posting this blog? (wink, wink)
Thanks for reading this far.