I was challenged a couple months ago to consider my regrets. Rather quickly several major regrets came to mind. Reflecting on my greatest regrettable actions I encounter a disturbing revelation: I have really regretted doing things that primarily made me look bad. Sadly, even when those regrets have involved hurting another person, the reason I regret it is because it tarnishes my reputation, not because of the harm I caused others.
On a band tour back in grade 10, we were passing through Perth Andover, NB where one of our band members lived (I attended a boarding school) and we were to pick him up. A vehicle took the exit off the highway while the other 3 vehicles waited on the shoulder. After some time, I heard our driver lament that this was taking a long time. I perked up and suggested we go to his house; I knew where he lived and it was just a couple kms up the road. Our entire caravan of vans then followed my directions and drove down the road. Very quickly, the vehicle with the Perth resident inside it passed us going the other way. Unfortunately, there were no good places to turn around for at least a km and even then it took quite a while to get everything turned around. In the end we ended up losing 10-15 minutes extending our already delayed trip unnecessarily. Our band conductor had some stern words for me. I was, and still am, embarrassed by that decision, which in hindsight still suggests the best of intentions and really didn’t cause much disruption. My embarrassment remains.
In 2002 I was assigned to grade 8 and 9 language arts. There were several difficult students (and parents) and to multiply my frustration it was my first year teaching and I was teaching outside of my subject area. On the last day of regular classes, I showed my options class a movie – Back to the Future. Most of the class watched with enjoyment, but two of my students loudly mocked the film and essentially ruined it for everyone. I ended up speaking to them quite harshly and held one of them against the wall because of his outright defiance (I didn’t harm him). I had to eat humble pie by apologizing to him and his father a couple days later along with a talk from my vice-principal. This event haunts me as perhaps the one thing that would really attack my character if I ever became a public figure in politics or otherwise. Note that I have little concern as to how this might have affected the student – which is terrible as I was in a position of authority and should never have treated him this way.
So I think an important step moving forward is to acknowledge this rather disconcerting emphasis on my own self-importance and hold others in high esteem.
I can identify four major “aha!” moments for me recognizing the value of the other:
1996: Working as a student missionary in the Marshall Islands and being asked by an uncle of a toddler to be her primary care giver. This broke my heart.
2000: Working as a youth pastor and discovering that a youth is more important than the lesson I was trying to teach to them.
2005: Receiving an email the morning my son was born which included the Hasidic saying: “When a child walks down the road, a company of angels goes before him proclaiming, ‘Make way for the image of the Holy One.'”
2009: Listening to a sermon on Anger where my pastor explained that he had no right to be angry with another person. It was an issue of pride raising him above another to demean them.
It’s a journey and I’m still on it. While most issues of faith have been cerebral, I am slowly realizing their applications in my life.