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Our Three Regrets At The End Of Life

Our Three Regrets At The End Of Life

I’m usually writing about food-related topics, but this story about what Tenzin Kiyosaki heard as she comforted people toward the end of their life really stuck with me today. I think it’s because I am much more aware of my mortality, and the physical, mental, and spiritual elements of our selves are so interconnected. Not only within ourselves but with each other as well.

If you saw my recent live-stream, you know I received some good news from my last doctor’s visit. The small changes that I’ve been making (Mediterranean diet, yoga, meditation, connecting with others, learning) are working. Someone recently commented, “Your Mom is still guiding you,” and I think that’s true. Just like she did with her health, I’m turning the corner and improving the odds there’s a good amount of time left. Her life expectancy based on her family’s history was her mid-70’s. She lived fully and on her own up until passing away at 95.

The three regrets Tenzin writes about are:

  1. I did not live my life of dreams.

  2. I did not share my love.

  3. I did not forgive.

If you would like more explanation of those points, I’ve included the link above; it’s a speedy read. What I wanted to write about was an observation that has really resonated with people. The third regret - I did not forgive - actually facilitates the first two. And in particular, it is the forgiveness of one’s self that is so important.

Forgiveness is a popular topic amongst self-help gurus, and the definitions are pretty consistent with this one from Berkeley University:

“Psychologists generally define forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.

Just as important as defining what forgiveness is, though, is understanding what forgiveness is not. Experts who study or teach forgiveness make clear that when you forgive, you do not gloss over or deny the seriousness of an offense against you. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting, nor does it mean condoning or excusing offenses. Though forgiveness can help repair a damaged relationship, it doesn’t obligate you to reconcile with the person who harmed you, or release them from legal accountability.

Instead, forgiveness brings the forgiver peace of mind and frees him or her from corrosive anger. While there is some debate over whether true forgiveness requires positive feelings toward the offender, experts agree that it at least involves letting go of deeply held negative feelings. In that way, it empowers you to recognize the pain you suffered without letting that pain define you, enabling you to heal and move on with your life.”

I understand and agree with most of this, particularly in cases of abuse, harm, or cruelty. Those are inexcusable, but forgiving the harm in the manner above - forgiving but not forgetting or excusing - can provide the inner peace of mind that allows you to heal and move on. But often, this is then applied to perceived slights, arguments, or unmet expectations. In these cases, forgiveness requires more. It requires an accompanying reconciliation and forgiveness of yourself concerning the offense. You see, it’s natural and our tendency to look at another and be outraged at how they have wronged you. The seriousness of “their” offense seems obvious, and we are victims of that offense.

In these cases where we perceive we were wronged, the hard work, and true forgiveness, comes from looking within first. As my friend and colleague, Sam Morris, often states, “The work to be done always starts within.” This is so essential because one-sided forgiveness, as described above, is the ego protecting the psyche, and it does not heal the wound. And if we are truly going to move on, we have to heal the wound truly, not just numb it and slap another bandaid on it. This comes from self-examination and accountability.

Someone I follow, Dr. Henry Cloud, has a great perspective on this.

“Become a good historian of yourself.”

A good historian takes a neutral and clear-eyed view of the past. Importantly, she/he understands they are inherently biased and that the bias influences how they view everything. Understanding that bias doesn’t suddenly make you unbiased; it allows you to see things more clearly and better understand why you think, act, and make the decisions you do. This is really important in forgiveness. When we feel wronged, we would often be shocked to see the situation from the other’s perspective. Our perceptions are usually mirrors - what we perceive as slights or offenses are often reflections of our own insecurities.

Again, there are cases where forgiveness can and should be one-sided. But in most, I believe there is a healthier approach. By truly forgiving the other AND yourself and your contribution, it truly frees you to approach your life with love and purpose, unhindered from old wounds. If we also take CARE by eating Clean, staying Active, Building Relationships, and always lEarning, then at whatever point that end of life occurs, we will be free of regret and rich beyond our wildest dreams. That sounds pretty good to me.

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