Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Live with no regrets...

Are you young? Are you just starting out as a wife and mother? Or, are you somewhere in your busy thirties? If you have yet to see your fortieth birthday, it may be hard for you to imagine a time when you have more years on earth behind you than you have ahead of you. However, if the Lord blesses you with a long earthly life, the day will come when you do reach middle age and beyond. At that time, you may find yourself reflecting on how you've lived your life so far.

Sadly, for some, the middle years are filled with regret regret. In fact, the current issue of AARP says that it's common for midlife people to mourn over lost opportunities. The article lists these as the five most five most common regrets listed by middle-aged Americans:

1) Not pursuing educational opportunities.
2) Wishing for more success in his or her career or wishing that he or she had chosen an entirely different career.
3) Regrets related to long-lost loves, unrequited affections, and broken or painful marriages.
4) Not spending enough time with their children, wondering if they were good parents, making poor child-care choices, and estrangement from parents or siblings.
5) Regrets about their own failures, abilities, attitudes, and character flaws. Surprisingly, a large number wish specifically that they had had more self-control.

According to Hamilton Bezley, Ph.D., an expert quoted in the article, the years between 40 and 65 are a time when people reevaluate their lives. That means that the huge numbers of baby boomers are now within this period of life-assessment.

Beazley thinks that boomers are even more likely to focus on regrets than previous generations, because they were raised with the expectation that increasing prosperity and advances in technology were going to fix the world's problems. According to Beazley, boomers often have the idea that hard things -- even getting older -- just shouldn't happen to them.

Now, these are just my opinions, but here is my response to the article:

1) No matter whether you are 18 or 88, heed Ephesians 5:15-17. Make the most of every opportunity you have on earth, because the days are fleeting. Understand and follow the Lord's will. In every stage of life invest your heart and your treasure in heaven. Matthew 6:18-32. Spend your life on things that will last for eternity.
2) Count your blessings! Every day of your life, you will wake up with blessings and challenges. You will have to choose which you focus on. If you live your life with a problem-centered focus, you will look back on your life and remember mostly problems. If you can learn to praise and be thankful, even in hard times, you will look back and remember riches.
3) Even for the faithful woman, there may come a time when she looks back and wishes she had done some things differently. We all make mistakes. We may need to mourn some losses while, at the same time, accepting the Lord's grace, comfort, and gift of repentance. However, it's one thing to work through griefs; it's another to get stuck in regret. Read 2 Corinthians 7:8-16 to understand the difference between worldly sorrow, which leads to death, and godly sorrow, which leads to life and joy. Also, remember Paul's attitude. He left whatever belonged to yesterday -- good or bad -- behind him and he pressed on to the goal of being like Christ and with Christ. It's fine to cherish wonderful, happy memories and to come to grips with sorrows or sin. But, we are not to dwell in the past. We are to press forward, to take hold of the hope that the Lord has in store for us.
4) Every one of the regrets listed in the AARP article can be a blessing: Education, Career, Romance, Family, and our own Life. However, if you put your hope in any one of these things to the point that it becomes an idol for you, you are sure to be disappointed. The only perfect and true foundation for our life is Christ. Matthew 7:21-27; I Peter 1:13. With Christ, you can enjoy blessings in their proper perspective.
5) Cherish relationships. Love your husband. Love your children. Don't let yourself get out of joint over trivial irritations. Don't waste any precious moments nursing bitterness in your heart. Ask yourself, "Will this really matter to me 100 years from now?" Get help from the Lord and from godly people if you have problems in relationships. If you need to reconcile with anyone, do it while you have the chance. If the other person doesn't respond to your overtures of love and peace, you are not in control of that. Live in such a way, though, that you know you did what you could on your part. Romans 12:18.



Buffy said...

Great advice. To a certain extent being happy means choosing to be happy.

Elizabeth said...

Hi Buffy,

Yes, while challenges and sorrows are real, God helps us overcome them if we meet them with faith.

Anonymous said...

Lovely advice Elizabeth. I totally agree with your thoughts.

Annie said...

I just have such a hard time regretting things I DID (except those that are sinful, obviously)..but everything I did with jobs, education, friends, family are all just part of the fabric that is ME. There are just so MANY things I want to do and I can't do them all at once!

Elizabeth said...

Hi Sarah and Annie,

Thanks for your comments. Annie, I'm glad you don't live with regret! It's a waste of precious life.

One thing about the article that struck me is that it said that younger people regret things they did, while older people tended to regret things they didn't do. It's good for all of us to realize that there are many wonderful things to do, and we can't do them all at once.