This may come as a shock to some of you, but at one time I was a teenager. I know, I know, it was a very long time ago. At least, it seems more and more that way all the time. I was a teen in the seventies….and I survived without too much long-term damage. I guess, probably most of the credit is due to participating in my church’s youth group, but I had a dad that taught me to love God at an early age, and I can’t discount that in the least.
One of the activities that I participated in as a teen in my youth group, and later as a college-age counselor was “going to camp.” Camp Indogan in northern Indiana was our destination of choice, and the place gave me some great memories. I made some friends, flirted with some girls, hiked in the woods, played some ball, and studied the Bible.
One lesson that I heard there so long ago gave me a point that I want to share with you. I’m not sure anymore who the speaker was, but the thing he said that made a tremendous impact on the course of my life was: “Would you rather be able to look back and say ‘I’m glad I did’ or ‘I wish I had’?”
I took that to heart, and have carried it with me for about thirty years.
Thinking ahead is something that we tend to not be very good at….thinking ahead to the consequences and results of our choices and actions. Thinking about the question I mentioned above has forced me over the years to do just that. Not that I’ve been perfect at it. I still have some regrets, but not nearly as many as I likely would have had.
I’m glad I can look back and say that I lived a life of sobriety, instead of regretting a life of addiction or alcoholism.
I’m glad I’ve been faithful to my wife for over twenty-five years, instead of regretting a series of broken relationships.
I’m glad I’ve devoted my life to honesty, integrity, and ethical practices, instead of constantly worrying about whether my latest lie contradicts any previous ones.
Again, I do have some regrets, but they’re not worth rehashing. I beat myself up enough about those, I suppose. But, the real point is to look forward with a longer-term view of things from the point I’m at right now.
You may be reading this and are beating yourself up because of the regrets you carry. If that is true, STOP. You can’t change the past, but you can learn from those mistakes. You can use them to help others and make a difference in someone else’s life. The thing to do now is to look forward and think about what you’d like to be able to look back and say once more water has gone under the bridge. Starting right now, what would you like to be able to look back at in another five, ten, or twenty years and be able to say that you are glad that you did it?
One other thing I’ll add…it is the little choices that hang us or that make us. The little choices in which we compromise are often the ones that add up into large regrets. If we look forward to consider the kind of person we want to be, and the kind of life we would want to have, then we have to be sure to not compromise in the little choices. Did you know that if you add up enough pennies, you’ll end up with a lot of money? It is the same with our choices. Make enough small bad choices, and you end up with large regrets. But, the opposite is also true. Make enough small good choices, and you’ll end up with great results and a great life.
Writing this has brought me to the conclusion that I need to refresh my earlier commitment. I need to be sure to consider whether in the long-term I will be able to look back and say that I’m glad I followed the course that I did; made good choices and have no regrets.
In closing, remember…Would you rather be able to look back and say, “I wish I had” or “I’m glad I did”?