The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4

Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives.

She recorded their final thoughts and eventually published it in a book called, “The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying.”

The interesting thing is that these regrets are universal.  Irrespective of race or creed, we regret the same things when our time to depart comes.

Here are the top five regrets of the dying, as witnessed by Ware:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

This was the most common regret of all.

I’ve said many times that the cemetery is the wealthiest piece of real estate on the planet.  There are more unfulfilled dreams, unwritten books, unsung songs, and unspoken words of love and forgiveness buried there than any other place.

I truly believe God calls us to enjoy and live life to full, as He made it all and said “it is good!”

So many people settle for a life less than what it could be because of some misguided belief or some bad experience that happened 30 years ago. We need have the courage to be who we feel true to be.

Yes, our minds and the world will try and trick us into becoming someone else, but that’s a trap.  God made you for a reason.  You have value. You have a contribution to make.

Be you. Be free.

  1. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

Ironically, all the male patients said this. They missed their children’s childhood and their partner’s companionship.

I believe the Scriptures teach us to make the most of what God gives us, but it also questions to what purpose.  What are we attempting to hoard?

What do we truly value in life; things that rust, rot, and depreciate, or things with eternal value?

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

Many people suppress their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming.

Many patients developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.

The Scriptures clearly teach us to make peace with others.  It tells us to settle outside of courts.  It encourages us to do what we can to live in harmony with others and even love our enemies.

Living the Go(o)d life requires us to make this a priority.  If there is no love in me, I have nothing.  We must learn to build deep relationships with each other, which are characterised by transparency, honesty and trust.

  1. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

Many people would not truly realise the gift of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down.

Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years.

There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.

The Scriptures teach us that as iron sharpens iron, so one friend shapes another. 

Relationships are the key to living a Godly life.

Why else would Jesus teach that the greatest rule or law to do life, next to loving God, is to love your neighbour?

God made us for relationships.  We cannot exist fully without them.  We need people to flourish.  We need to build deep and lasting relationships with each other.

This is as much a spiritual act as praying to God Himself.

  1. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Many people do not realise until the end that happiness was a choice.

They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits.  The so-called “comfort of familiarity” overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives.

Fear of change had them pretending to others (and to their selves) that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have playfulness in their life again.

It’s sad because the Scriptures teach us, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”  

Happiness can be chosen. Playfulness is a choice. A light heart is a frame of mind.

We can choose to place our happiness in God and take pleasure in Him, and He will add to our lives what we desire. We just need to stop pretending and allow ourselves to be happy.

How?

Just stop being unhappy and choose to be happy.  Make a commitment to yourself with your whole being that you will not die with this regret as thousands of others around the world have.  It’s totally unnecessary.

If you find yourself heading for one of these endings, my prayer is that you will change your course today.

It’s doesn’t matter if you’re long past retirement.  We get this one life.

Allow God to make it something even greater, and who knows, He might surprise you with what’s been hidden inside you all this time.

May light and peace fill your life.