Some things I’ve been thinking about:
I listened to a podcast about regret a few months ago. One of the interviewees said, “I think I’ve learned that being human means living with some regret.” As someone who does not do well with uncertainty and feels the need to resolve conflict (internal or otherwise) immediately, the idea of living indefinitely with an unpleasant, undefined feeling makes me very anxious.
But I think being human means living with a lot of uncomfortable things, not just regret. Many things cannot be resolved. Justice will not always be served. Grief might never fully dissipate. Apologies won’t always be accepted. Feelings of guilt might nag at the back of your mind forever. And I’m starting to learn that that’s ok. It’s ok to feel that something is unfair, and it’s ok to grieve a loss. It’s ok to feel guilty. As long as I do something productive with those feelings.
Let me be clear – I don’t mean that to live with guilt is to absolve myself of guilt. I mean quite the opposite. To live with guilt is to take accountability for my actions and words, appreciate the impact I have on others, and admit fault (at the very least, to myself) – and then try to do better.
I don’t mean that to live with grief is to carry the grief like a great weight upon my shoulders forever. To live with grief is to respect those feelings, to honour the person I am grieving, and to let it be part of me but not all of me.
I don’t mean that to live with injustice is to live with anger about all instances where justice has not been done. To live with injustice is to recognize what is wrong or unfair, and then to strive to do right and be fair.
I have not been, am not now, and will not be perfect. I will say something insensitive. I will be too proud to apologize. I will tell myself that you are wrong or that your feelings aren’t valid to make myself feel less guilty about the role I have played.
But I promise I will try. I’ll remember that many things can be true at once, and that for one of us to be right the other does not have to be wrong. I’ll remind myself that your feelings are not mine to judge. I’ll ask questions before I make assumptions. I’ll genuinely try to see things from your perspective. I won’t always agree with you, and that’s ok, too. I don’t need to convince you of my opinion. I don’t need to categorize every word or action into right or wrong, fair or unfair, valid or invalid, reasonable or foolish. Because not all things can or should be so easily resolved.
I will live with the uncomfortable feelings, and I will learn from them, and I will try to do better.