what we don't regret

November 15, 2021, Israel

Life is full of regret; My father of blessed memory used to say; "Would have, Should have, Could have, the cry of losers". Do what you feel you should do, be careful, but don't live with regrets. He believed in taking risks, he believed in living his life the way he wanted to. His favorite songs were "The Impossible Dream", and "I did it My Way." He believed in living life to its full potential, without regrets. 

I believe he died without any regrets, he was at peace with himself and the world.

There are many things in life that we regret; I believe what we regret most fall into two categories': Opportunities missed, and people we have hurt. What we don't regret are the nice things we have said and done, the kindness we have done to others, even if it turns out to be undeserved, and what we have given to others, even if it was not rewarded in kind. 

A kind word is never wasted, a word said in anger or frustration cannot be taken back, that is why the rabbis warn us; wise ones, be careful with your words, and let your words light up the world.

Being impatient, or "snapping" at someone can be explained by the circumstances, it can be justified, but it is still never the right or proper behavior. The truly disciplined, the truly pious, will not behave this way. 

There is a story told of the great Rabbi Yisroel Meir Kagan of Radun, Poland. He was a saintly man, but even such a man can become impatient. A poor Jew came to his home to ask for advice, and just would not stop, he went on and on. The great and humble rabbi was ready to lose his patience. He told the man that he must take another call just now (though of course he did not have a telephone), he went to another room and began to speak to the wall; "Reb Yisroel Meir, what is wrong with you? A simple, poor, Jew is pouring out his heart to you and you can't have a little patience?!, You can't listen attentively a little bit longer? You should be ashamed of yourself." Finally the great rabbi returned to the simple visitor and patiently listened to him.

We all need to review this story, daily. I know I need to.

Whatever our reasons or justifications for being impatient, with a customer, with an employee, with a friend or family member, we will regret it, and then it might be too late to make things right. The things we shall never regret are kindness, patience, tolerance, generosity. 

Over my years I have met many martial arts black belts, I have met much fewer with a black belt in life. These are the true masters; masters of forgiveness, masters of understanding, masters of patience and kindness. You cannot wear these black belts, and you are awarded no diploma or plaque, you will not be honored at a dinner or publicly praised but you will know that you made this world a better place. It is an art that takes daily practice. 

A rabbi I knew in Brooklyn would tell me, "When someone is rude to be, nasty or insulting, I think to myself, he has just shown me his business card, he has just 'introduced' himself, now it is time for me to show him who I am. I show him who I am by my patience and forgiveness. "