What Can You Learn From The Regrets Older People Have?

Tony Campolo gave a talk in which he referred to a project he led while a Sociology professor at Eastern University in St. David’s Pennsylvania. He and his students asked 50 people age 95 and older how they, if given the chance, would live life differently?

Did they have any regrets? 

What could you do differently so that when you are 95 you minimized your regrets?

Let’s learn from these men and women who had lived long lives. Most of their answers could be summed up in these 3 Regrets…

1. If I could do life over, I’d reflect more.

We all know that life is a blur as we hurry from one thing to the next. What we may not realize is that without taking time to reflect we end up being busy but not fulfilled.

Maybe you’ve heard the story of the person who climbed the ladder and made it to the top only to realize he’d leaned the ladder against the wrong building.

Reflection allows us to reorient ourselves to what’s true. For the Christian reflection is the way we internalize God’s character and his promises.

Psalm 107:43 Let the one who is wise heed these things and ponder the loving deeds of the Lord.

Luke 2:19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

Reflecting on our life leads us to repentance.

Psalm 139:23-24 Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

2. If I could do life over, I’d risk more.

Why didn’t they mention success or failures? Probably because many successes don’t turn out to be as great as they first expected and failures weren’t as bad either.

But they did say that they wish they had taken more risks. Maybe the kind of risk that allows a person to initiate a friendship even though they might be rejected. Or maybe the kind of risk that allows a person to serve in the community a couple times a month even though they are risking their time and comfort. Or maybe the kind of risk of staying in a marriage and working through difficult issues even though there’s no guarantee it will work out.

The Christian takes risk because God doesn’t. We can risk our comfort and reputation and everything else because our future is certain, our happiness in Christ is sure. We can deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Jesus because he’s promised us that we will be with him in Paradise.

3. If I could do life over, I would do more things that would live on after I’m dead.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 “God has set eternity in the human heart…”

People donate money so that buildings will be named after them, establish foundations in their name, and we say that people live on in our hearts. All this because every person has a desire to make a difference that outlasts their earthly life.

We want to live for things that last beyond our life but we too often find ourselves thinking only about tomorrow.

If you think of eternity as a line that never ends, our life on earth is like a tiny dot on the line. The 70-80 years of our lives is blip when compared to eternity. The question is whether we should live our life for the “dot” or the “line”? Live for now or forever?

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