Sometimes when I look back over the last 10 years of my life, I feel grateful: for the lessons I have learned, for the person I have grown to be, for the friends who have stuck with me along my journey and also for some who haven’t. Other times when I reminisce though, I feel regret and shame – for the feelings that I have hurt, for the bad decisions I have made, for all the money I spent with nothing to show for it now.
One of my oldest Nashville friends is getting married this weekend, and someone who used to be a mutual friend is going to be the best man. In all honesty, I think this guy was my first real romantic interest. We had a somewhat turbulent friendship which never developed into anything more serious than just that; though, that said, it was complicated and ended on an even more complicated note. I’m not proud of how our relationship ended, and I know he isn’t either. It’s all in the past now, yes, but seeing his name in the wedding party list has brought up some interesting emotions.
I find that I still feel a great deal of fondness towards him. I’m not resentful or hurt or angry. I regret that we let the inevitable human drama get between us and destroy our friendship. It’s a funny thing, but I still miss our whole group, from time to time. That was the first group of friends I ever had who I felt all actually liked me and enjoyed my company, and that was such a novel and exhilarating experience. But I was foolish and immature and didn’t know how to respect myself, let alone my friends. I’m glad that I have learned and grown through experiences like these, but I wish I didn’t always insist on learning life lessons the hard way.
And I wish I could go back and undo the feelings that I have hurt in my selfish and narrow-minded past.
2 thoughts on “”
“I wish I could go back and undo the feelings that I have hurt in my selfish and narrow-minded past.” I can relate. Hopefully those people have been able to forgive, have compassion for you (since most selfish people are probably pretty miserable, or become miserable when the consequences catch up to them), and move on, rather than letting what happened hold them back.
The memory of pain can be a driving force behind a lot of good works; people don’t have to choose to let their fear of experiencing similar pain, or their anger at what happened, impede them. They can seek out the necessary resources to work through those emotions. You are responsible for what you did, but you are not responsible for anyone’s continuing to use what happened as an excuse for not being happy or productive, when they could have found means to not let it get in the way.
It might in some cases be a useful exercise to write apology letters. You can write about what you were thinking when you behaved selfishly, and what you have realized since then, that makes you not want to behave that way anymore. If you have lost friendships, maybe you can re-establish some of them, and be the good friend that you now know how to be. It is very beautiful to see that happen.
That can be helpful not only to you and the recipient (if you send the letters), but you can also publish the letters (anonymously, if necessary) or use them as the basis for advice you can give to other people about how and why to act in unselfish ways. There are probably a lot of people making the same mistakes that you made, because they don’t know a better way, or they don’t realize the benefits of behaving differently. If you can help them avoid those errors, then you will prevent them from having to experience the same regret that you are feeling now, and you can perhaps find solace that your pain, and the pain of those you hurt, was not all for nothing; you allowed it to motivate you to make the world a better place.
Also, even if the way you treated other people wasn’t perfect, you might still have been a positive influence on their lives overall. Suppose you’d been absent entirely. Would their lives have been better?
Maybe without your being available to hang out with, the person would have ended up hanging around instead with someone who was even more selfish and narrow-minded. If that’s the case, then your net influence on their life was to help spare them from selfishness and narrow-mindedness, rather than to inflict more of it than they otherwise would have experienced.