I recently spoke to a group of young adults (and their teachers/family/friends) at their high school graduation. I’ve written beforeabout Bronnie Ware’s The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying. These themes are also echoed within the walls of our therapy offices at Bergen and Associates every day, and whispered to each other in The Daring Way™ groups that I offer regularly. And I thought to myself…”What if, instead of uttering these regrets on their death beds decades from now, these students would be able to proactively address these concerns as opportunities starting now, at the beginning of their adult lives. What if, they–and maybe others too–would shape their lives so as to avoid these end-of-life regrets?”
So…I gave my take on each of the 5 regrets turned 5 opportunities. Join us to consider proactively living the life that aligns with the one you want to live? A 5 part series, from the talk, adjusted for a wider audience. With thanx to Bronnie Ware…
Opportunity #4: Staying meaningfully connected with friends
Bronnie Ware’s cadre of those dying people who shared with her said very clearly that, “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.”
Without connection with others, there is suffering. Always.
Many students who graduated last month said goodbye to the people who they hung out with all year…and it is probably hard for many to imagine that when summer is over, the gang won’t be collecting back at school. Solid friendships were developed.…people that 20 years from now you can say you knew way back in the day–you will reminisce about the water balloons, the pranks, the victories, and the laughs..Kids have wild fun with friends in high school–crazy and fun stuff, singing in dramas and choirs, played on the court and against each other, and working on dissecting animals, making spaghetti bridges or building catapults for school physics projects.
Some students have struggled with relationships in high school…and for many, the important life long relationships will start in the years after high school. The campaign, “It gets better” is not some PR hype…for all sorts of kids it’s true. High school relationships are brutal…and the meaningful friendships start in adulthood.
Friendships…solid, long lasting ones are life preservers for when the storms of life knock you off your moorings.
For the last 10 years, I have meet with a friend on Thursday mornings for an hour or so at Starbucks…there are times when she’s away on vacation, or I have a presentation, and so we’ll cancel for a week or two here and there, but then, without confirming, we just both know to show up the next week.
We have this standing commitment to be there for each other.
M is a friend who knows me well enough to challenge me when I’m having trouble seeing something I need to see. She tells me of how much she believes in me when I don’t always believe in myself. M has earned the right to speak into my life, and she’s earned my trust for me to share authentically with her. I like to think I do the same for her.
Years ago, our family was moving. I was exhausted, burnt out, and overwhelmed with all of what was going on in my life. M came over to my house one evening to help me as I was trying to get the place ready to sell.
And you know how each house has one of those closets that you just always make sure the door is closed? I couldn’t face that closet, I was just done…and she said something like, “Wouldn’t it be nice to wake up tomorrow knowing that we got 15 minutes worth of work done here? Let’s plow into it.” And don’t you know that when I went to bed that night, it was done…it had only taken 2 people 20 minutes to power through.
M helped me do something that I wouldn’t have been able to do on my own, without judgment or criticism or patronizing…she is a “mat bearer friend”.
In the Christian Bible’s New Testament, there is a story of a man couldn’t walk. He desperately wants to get to hear and see Jesus, the Healer, but has no way of getting himself near. His buddies carry him up to the roof, cut through the mud and branches that beam the ceiling and they let him down through the roof on a mat to Jesus so he can be healed.
Imagine, looking up and getting plaster in your eye! And then having the ceiling start to rain down
…and they see the man on a mat coming through.
I am moved when I think of the caring of these buddies, who trouble themselves to implement this wild plan–they create property damage because they care about their friend and his healing. How vulnerable the man on the mat must have felt at that moment, in the middle of this crazy plan–being let down by his friends holding the ropes! But he chose to lean into the discomfort of trusting his friends and went for it.
We all need “mat bearer friends” in our lives…
- People who will carry us toward healing when we can’t get there on our own.
- Folks that can remind us of who we are when we forget.
- Friends who encourage, cajole, and pour kindness on us in hard times.
- People who love us enough to give us hard messages out of caring;
- Those who have earned the right to hear the stories that we need to tell.
Friedrich Buechner said:
What we hunger for perhaps more than anything else is to be known in our full humanness, and yet that is often just what we also fear more than anything else. It is important to tell at least from time to time the secret of who we truly and fully are . . . because otherwise we run the risk of losing track of who we truly and fully are and little by little come to accept instead the highly edited version which we put forth in hope that the world will find it more acceptable than the real thing. It is important to tell our secrets too because it makes it easier . . . for other people to tell us a secret or two of their own . . .
Nurture friendships in your life. A mat has 4 corners…I don’t know how many people lowered the fellow to Jesus in the New Testament narrative…but I like to think that we each need about 4 mat bearing friends with whom we can share a secret and who will remind us of our value.
Perhaps they will privilege us with a secret or two of their own.
And we know there is no greater honour than to be a mat bearer friend…that is something no one will ever regret.