Right now I don’t have very many regrets, and the majority that I can think of are pretty negligible and have been forgotten long ago – thereby implying they aren’t regrets at all anymore. The way I see it there are varying levels of regret and these levels can be judged by the longevity of the regret in question – it’s lifespan. By that I mean how long I continue to regret a certain action or decision determines how big a regret it is. Like the time I decided not to wear underpants to youth group when I was 17 and someone pulled my pants down in front of all the girls – I regretted that decision for a good year or two at least. So I’d put that at about a 3 or 4 out of 10. Oh, what about the time I decided not to join my friends on a surf trip to the West Coast for the school holidays because I had just started dating Emily Graham – she broke up with me at the end of the first week of the three week holidays and my friends scored mental waves – that regret lasted years. 5 out of 10 (surfing always came before girls after that – until I met my wife of course).
So I’m guessing you’re wondering if there is anything I currently regret and have continued to for a long time. There is one thing and it’s something I think I will probably always regret.
To fill you in we’ll need to go back in time to when I was in high school. I was really good friends with a guy who’s name I’m going to ommit – I’m not sure why exactly, but I just think I should.
This friend and I surfed together just about every weekend and slept over at one another’s houses all the time. OK, let’s call him Simon for the sake of having a name to use.
Simon had two older brothers who also both surfed. I looked up to them both and always loved hanging out at their house – some of my best memories are from times at their house, hanging in their neighbourhood and at the beach near where they stayed. They were a great family – still are I’m sure!
Simon and I were pretty tight and we’d talk about girls and what we wanted to do when we were older. We’d talk about all the surf spots around the world that we wanted to surf and places we wanted to go. I still remember a big map of Indonesia that he had stuck up on the wall next to his bed and he once told me about how he was thinking about doing missionary work there (and getting crazy good waves while he was at it – obviously!). (Ironically I am writing this whilst lying on a bed, under a less than fully-functional mosquito net, on the island of Nias in Northern Sumatra, Indonesia.)
OK, lets get to the crux. I don’t remember the exact year that it happened (I think it was my first year out of High School and Simon’s last year of the same – I have no way to check right now unfortunately), but one morning Simon’s brothers went for a surf at their local spot and one of them was attacked by a shark. I won’t go into any details, but he passed away as a result.
Simon needed me (and all his other friends) to be there for him to talk to if he wanted to or to be quiet with if he needed to or even to just do random stuff with if that’s what he needed. I seriously had no idea what to say to him. I couldn’t even imagine his pain and I knew that nothing I could say would help, so I did the worst thing of all. I said nothing. I didn’t call and I didn’t go to see him. I’m still shocked at my insanely poor decision! I get a kind of heavy feeling on me when I think about it – every time.
Why didn’t I call? I know all the reasons why, but when I think of them they become more like excuses than reasons. I was stupid enough to think about myself and how I would feel rather than forgetting about me and being the friend that I should have been. I let my insecurities be bigger than my loyalty. I know where those insecurities came from and I could go on and list them as reasons for my actions, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my biggest regret it’s that I’m responsible for my actions and my decisions and for who I am. No amount of shifting blame to my daddy issues could make up for the fact that I made an extremely poor decision and that I was a bad friend. I’ve realised that it’s me who is responsible for who I am and not my father. I can be the product of the hand I feel I’ve been dealt or I can be the man, husband, father, friend and son I want to be by taking responsibility for my character.
I was Simon’s ‘Christian’ friend and I let him down hugely! I showed him an extremely distorted and false picture of who God is by bailing on him when it counted. Our friendship died back then. I have seen him since then and apologised for my poor form, but it was too little too late. Don’t get me wrong, he was very gracious about it and he’s a truly great guy, but apart from the ocassional message here and there on Facebook we don’t have much contact.
There’s not much substance to our friendship and it doesn’t take much to see why. Would you have a real friendship with someone who bailed on you at a time like that? I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t.
I’m reminded of Simon’s bedside map almost daily while we are here in Indonesia and I can’t help thinking about whether he would be here doing the things he spoke about all those years ago if I had just had the balls to be a good enough friend to be there for him when he needed me.
Don’t make decision based on what your past or your experience says about you. Be the best version of you by choosing to do the things that the best version of you would do. I don’t get it right all the time, but if I keep trying (and I will) then I’ll eventually be the best me.