When I was 13, my mom died. The last interaction I had with her when she was conscious was awkward. I brought all my 13-year-old angst to the conversation. I never had the chance to speak with her after that.
I wish I could say that was the only scenario in my life that I handled badly. That I walked away from that moment vowing to never leave anything important unsaid and to always be satisfied with how I handled a situation both with my actions and words. But it wasn’t.
There are moments, conversations, scenes that I wish I could replay. There are things I wish I would have said, and things I wish I wouldn’t. There are things I wish I would have done, and things I wish I wouldn’t.
And if I allow them, those moments could haunt me. Those poltergeists of past scenarios could plague every thought, every decision and paralyze me. And sometimes they do. On numerous occasions, I have walked away from conversations analyzing every word, every statement—thinking of different ways I could have handled everything.
But I’m finding as I grow older that the ghosts of the past that seem to cripple me are expelled with one word . . . kindness. And that kindness is directed to the one person I am least likely to give it to—myself.
I’m not oblivious to the power of words. I know that I can wound someone with a phrase, an idle comment. I also know that sometimes I have to make amends for the things I’ve said and done.
I know that I don’t always say the right thing. I don’t always handle a situation well. And while the written word gives me some time and space to write and rewrite what I want to say, life doesn’t provide that kind of margin.
Words matter. But not every word, not every action has to mean that my relationships are on the verge of collapse.
I’m committed to my wife. My kids. And if I say or do something I regret, I hope they will see me beyond a single sentence. I hope they will know my heart and my words don’t always match up.
It doesn’t mean I never say I’m sorry. But it does mean I need grace from those around me. And I need to extend that same grace to them and to not take everything so personally.
Not every attitude or snarky comment from one of my kids means that I’ve failed as a parent. Not every unexpected response from someone else means that a relationship needs repair, or I’m eternally misunderstood.
My relationship with my mom wasn’t about that one morning. It was about 13 years of moments. Would I have handled everything differently if I had the chance? Sure. In fact, there are many moments I wish I had a do over. But I won’t let the “should haves” or the “would haves” haunt me and I’ll try to extend that same grace and kindness to those I love.
— by Tim Walker
Walker is a husband/father/writer who is navigating faith, marriage, parenthood and mid-life. Follow his blog at www.timswords.com.