In my twoscore and some odd years as a Seventh-day Adventist, I have had the privilege of listening to many speakers and messengers of wisdom at camp meetings and other events. One presenter who always seemed to have something powerful to share is a recently retired pastor, Ron Sydenham.
Like other pastors of a church in a graying community, he often dealt with death and dying. When ministering to those near the end of their time on this earth, he would ask them, “Do you have any regrets?”
Sydenham relayed one such instance, the story of an estranged father and son. The elder man reached out to his son with a simple “I am sorry, son.” This was enough to start a much-needed conversation that left both parties in peace.
Conversely, a close friend of mine was left out of his father’s will because of a disagreement with his mother and because of his parents’ very public divorce. The pain of that rejection lingers to this day, and the opportunity for reconciliation ended with his father’s suicide. There will be no repairing of the relationship, no making things right — and that is a heavy burden for a son to bear.
I venture to say that we have all had encounters in which we felt that being right was more important than being kind or forgiving. Or, as a friend puts it, “You were in a situation where you had to ask Jesus to leave the room.” Ellen G. White counsels, “If you err, it would be better to err on the side of the people than on the side where you cannot reach them” (Sermons and Talks, 1:12).
Perhaps we should ask ourselves more often whether our actions will cause regret, whether we have past choices that we regret, and what we can do to make things right. Perhaps now is the best moment to call a parent, sibling, cousin, pastor, friend, co-worker, neighbor, and say those three powerful words, “I am sorry.”
You don’t have to wait for your deathbed. You don’t have to wait until it’s too late. The moment you think of it is the right moment to let go of past pains and live a life of peace.