I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
This is the third regret of the dying as related by Bronnie Ware.
There is much to learn from this regret. Being assertive is a learned skill and may be understood as a balance between being passive or aggressive.
Assertive sharing is authentic, from the heart, speaking in one’s own voice. This is true wisdom and true emotion and others naturally resonate with this form of sharing. The content of what is shared is not as important as the authenticity.
This is especially true today. It is vital to be authentic in what one says and does, if one desires to be received by others.
Blocks to Authenticity
Authenticity is blocked by internal factors: what if I’m wrong, what if I offend them, what if they refuse to listen, what if they won’t like me after I share. These fears become blocks to living an authentic life. It takes risk to be true to yourself and express yourself authentically. Remember the third regret of the dying: I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings, especially to those I care about.
I remember my father and his last days of life. Daddy was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in July of 1997 and later that month went on hospice, refusing further treatment for the advanced disease. This put the entire family in a different frame of mind because Daddy was the leader. It was his strength of purpose that had directed our family and had influenced his children, for better or worse. Three of my brothers had rebelled against daddy’s style of communication and control, three of us had been more passive. I won’t speak for the others today; since this is my blog, I will speak for myself.
I had just taken a job as a minister in a large church in downtown Tulsa Oklahoma. I started the first of June in 1997 and Dad was diagnosed in July of that same year. I had hoped that the two of us could talk shop, since my dad was a minister also and was the one that taught me in my formative years. For years I had resisted the idea of working in a church primarily because of what I had seen happen to dad as he attempted to help people. So, the fact that we both were now in the same field was an opportunity for me. But it was not to be.
Once dad was diagnosed he went through several changes. He began to be weak, almost immediately and although he was not bed-fast, he was jaundiced and required emergency surgery to remove a blockage to a bile duct. The cancer was advanced and soon after this he went to bed and did not get back out.
I remember the day when I felt the need to be honest with daddy about my feelings. I had felt restricted all my life from being able to share my true self with him. I always felt defensive and worried that he would either get angry or think I was stupid. This time, especially since I knew the seriousness of the situation, I took the risk to be authentic with my father,
I knelt by his bed, told him I loved him and I asked him to give me his blessing. I was thinking of all the bible stories where the patriarchs on their deathbeds blessed their sons. I wanted this! Dad agreed and while he lay and I knelt, he put his hand on my head and prayed a blessing on me.
I was filled with bittersweet emotion, I was sad he was dying, but so glad I was receiving his blessing. The experience made me giddy, almost as if it were unreal and in fact it was because we had never related in this fashion. It was an old school blessing and I received it joyfully.
I’m not sure if any of my brothers had such an encounter with him, but I hope they did. This one experience helped me to overcome much in my life since then, simply having the courage to ask my father for what I needed, one last time, and for him to have the wisdom to respond to me appropriately. I’ve been able to use this experience to be more authentic in relationship with others.
I encourage you not to wait until your loved one is near death to be authentic about your love and true desire. Do it now, today. It takes courage, but the risk is worth it. Learn from the dying; live life without regrets.
Action steps for today:
Think for a moment and reflect on your life. When were times you wanted to speak out and did not? Can you recall the emotion? What blocked the expression of your true feelings?
Now, think of a time when you took the risk and did express your feelings? What happened?
Commit to living an authentic life today. Write about this in your own voice. Let me hear about it!