What I Have Failed To Do

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin

Recently I came across a survey sponsored by psychologists from Cornell University that reported on the biggest regrets that people have in life. The survey said, “It’s not the things you do in life that you regret – it’s the things you don’t do.” One author noted that “In the short term, people regret their actions more than inactions. But in the long term, the ‘inaction regrets’ stick around longer.” The study concludes, “It’s vital for people to act on their hopes and dreams, and it isn’t normal to just keep putting them off indefinitely.”
An interesting insight, isn’t it? But what does that mean for our everyday lives? Well, I think it means that you should resolve to do now – right now – the things that’ve been on your “bucket list” for a long time – the book you’ve wanted to read, the skill you’ve wanted to master, the language you’ve wanted to learn, the garden you’ve wanted to plant, the trip you’ve wanted to take.
Of course the realities of life sometimes get in the way of our fondest plans, don’t they? Maybe you don’t have the money to travel to Italy, though you’ve always wanted to. Nonetheless, it’s a healthy human instinct to try to “act on our hopes and dreams” before the sands in the hourglass of our life have run out.
There’s a spiritual dimension to this conversation as well. Recall that every time we say the Confiteor at Mass we confess that we have greatly sinned, “in what I have done and what I have failed to do.” And it’s true. Sometimes we commit sin not just by our actions but also by our inactions, our omissions.
Examine your conscience: Have you failed to worship God by attending Sunday Mass? Have you failed to educate your children in the Faith? Have you failed to be generous in supporting the Church and helping the poor and needy? Have you failed to be reconciled to a family member or former friend against whom you’ve held a grudge for a long time?
It’s an important reminder for us, for when our time on earth has ended and we stand before the judgment seat of God, he will judge us not just on what we have done, but also by what we have failed to do.
Something to think about: What are the unfulfilled hopes and dreams you’ve been carrying in your heart? Is it too late to fulfill them?