Insurance Against Regret

  • Insurance Against Regret
  • Matthew 5:23-24; Proverbs 14:25; Luke 6:38
  • Lyndol Loyd
  • June 10, 2018
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6-10-18 sermon from LakeRidge UMC on Vimeo.

During my time as a pastor I’ve known plenty of people who, now knowing how things have turned out, would give nearly anything to go back in time and do things differently. But it’s wishful thinking because this life that we live here on earth isn’t dress rehearsal. It is the real thing.

The best decisions we ever make are on the front end of the story, not at the conclusion. That’s why I want to be sure you consider what decisions you need to be making today that will impact your life tomorrow.

In other words, what decisions should you be weighing right now that will determine how you will feel in a decade?  If you are to look back over your life and be content, this question is critical.

Chances are you have a vision for what you are going to invest your life in with the years you have on this earth.  You have a dream for what matters most to you, and that dream entails being able to look back upon your life and say, “That was well done.”

Let me remind us this morning that timing is everything when it comes to achieving a life well lived. The good decisions you make today minimize the regrets you will experience in the years to come.

In January of 2018, BusinessInsider.com did a study of the most dangerous intersections in each of the fifty states. In Texas the winner, or more accurately the loser, was determined to be the intersection of Bissonnet Street and Sam Houston Parkway in Houston. Hundreds of reported crashes take place at this intersection and that doesn’t count the numerous unreported fender benders.

I don’t know about you, but with this bit of information, if I lived in Houston, I can assure you I’d have an easy decision to make. I’d decide that I would drive out of my way to avoid the intersection of Bissonnet and Sam Houston. In our household, that is what you would call a “no brainer.”

This morning I would like for us to spend some time thinking about three decisions that in my mind should be just as easy for us, because they are almost always the right thing to do and will help keep us from regret.

 

  1. Decide to apologize when you’re wrong. “23So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, 24 leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.” – Matthew 5:23-24

“I’m sorry.” When was the last time you uttered these two words?  More important when was the last time you needed to and didn’t?  One of the easiest decisions you can ever make is to decide to apologize when you are wrong.

Why?  Because saying, “I’m sorry” has the power to repair harm, mend relationships, sooth wounds, and heal broken hearts.  An apology has the ability to disarm others of their anger and to prevent further misunderstandings.  An apology, without a doubt, diminishes regret.

While an apology cannot undo harmful past actions, if done sincerely and effectively, it can undo the negative effects of those actions.

Apologizing is relatively easy.  But for some reason, we don’t always do it when we know we should.  Something about our psyche makes it tougher than it needs to be.  We’d rather harbor hurt than to own up to our actions.

I recently heard about a company in China, The Gift Center, whose main purpose is to deliver apologies and attempt to facilitate reconciliation for their customers.  The company’s motto is “We say sorry for you.”

That may work in an eastern culture, but I know it would never fly in my own home.  I doubt it would work in yours either. So let me give you a few tips on how to say, “I’m sorry.”

A good apology involves three R’s:

  1. Responsibility: I know I hurt your feelings.
  2. Regret: I feel terrible that I hurt you.
  3. Remedy: I won’t do it again.

Unless all three of these elements are present, the other person will sense that something is missing in your apology and he or she will likely feel shortchanged.

There you have it, one easy decision you can make in advance that will simplify your life the next time you wonder whether you should apologize or not.

 

  1. Decide to tell the truth when tempted not to.

25 A truthful witness saves lives, but a false witness is a traitor.” – Proverbs 14:25

 

I read a story about a nursing student who landed her first job at a clinic; on her first evening of work, a young mother came in with her eighteen month old baby.  The child needed his final shot for a routine immunization.

The new nurse gave the boy his shot and stepped out of the room to record the vaccination on the boy’s chart. As she did so, the nurse realized she had given the boy the wrong vaccine. The nurse had given him a shot from a different vial – a routine vaccination for children, but the boy had already completed the series of shots months ago.

She gasped when she realized her mistake and went into shock, physically numbed by what she had done.  A series of thoughts raced through her mind: I can’t tell the doctor, he’ll think I’m incompetent.  It won’t hurt the child to be immunized twice for the same thing, will it?  But he does need the right vaccine.  What would this mother do?  No one will ever know. But I will always know and so will God.

Meanwhile, the doctor began examining the boy while the nurse paced nervously around the nurse’s station.  When the doctor came out of the room, the nurse immediately confessed her mistake.  She knew she could not live with such a secret.  As it turned out, no harm was done and the boy received the correct immunization.

The nurse’s story is a good example of what should be an easy decision but often isn’t – to tell the truth when we are tempted not to.  This simple decision, when lived out as an abiding principle, lowers a person’s guilt and regret quotient significantly.  Decide in advance, make a decision today, that you will tell the truth even when you’re tempted not to.

Is there any truth telling that you need to do today?

  1. Decide to give as best you can.

38 Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” – Luke 6:38

Tim Forneris is a computer analyst who works part time as a groundskeeper for the St. Louis Cardinals. He is the one who retrieved Mark McGwire’s sixty-second home-run ball, and became famous for turning the ball over to McGwire instead of holding on to it and selling it for an estimated $1 million.

Although Time magazine columnist, Daniel Kadlec, called this “an honorable gesture,” he used Forneris as an example of some poor personal financial habits.  Among Kadlec’s pointers were the need to sleep on decisions before you act on them, avoid herd thinking, and treat “found money” seriously.  Not surprisingly, Forneris wrote back to the columnist. Here is his thoughtful explanation of his actions:

“First of all, according to Mr. Kadlec, my first sin was the ‘impulse’ decision to give the ball back to Mr. McGwire immediately.  But my decision was by no means made on an impulse. I had thought over what I would do if I got a home run ball and discussed it with my family and friends. Also I can assure you that I was not influenced by herd thinking. What did influence my actions was my family and my background.

“I have always been taught to respect others and their accomplishments. I value all people’s achievements, big and small. In my opinion, Mr. McGwire deserved not only the home-run record for his work but also this ball. Life is about more than just money. It is about family, friends, and the experiences you have with them.

“As for my third financial sin of ‘easy come, easy go’ I believe some possessions are priceless. To put an economic value on Mr. McGwire’s hard work and dedication is absurd. Being the person who received the ball was a great blessing to me. And being able to return it to Mr. McGwire was a real honor and thrill. I still would not trade that experience for a million dollars.”

Wow! Would you have done what Tim Forneris did?  I’m not sure I would have, but his story serves as a reminder of how valuable the quality of generosity is when it comes from the heart.

No matter what the decision, I have decided that I would like to err on the side of giving too much than too little. Mind you, I’m not talking about being unwise or foolish with finances; I’m talking about deciding in advance to be the kind of person that gives as well as receives.

It can be a relatively easy decision that we too often complicate. So remember Tim Forneris and you’ll remember that giving almost always slays the dragon of regret.

As we wrap up this series of messages on “Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda: Overcoming Our Regrets,” I want to leave you with the story of a mythical golf match set in the 1930’s in Savannah, Georgia, involving golf legends Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen and hometown ace Rannulph Junuh. Many of you will know it from the movie as “The Legend of Bagger Vance.”

As a teenager, Junuh had tremendous promise as a golfer. But after his World War I tour of duty, he is marred psychologically and loses interest in golf.  Content to gamble and drink, Junuh is a recluse until his former girlfriend invites him to join Jones and Hagen in an exhibition match.

During the exhibition match, with four holes to play in the final round, Junuh successfully overcame his deficit of several strokes and took a two-stroke lead. But by the sixteenth hole, he trails again.

On the seventeenth hole, he slices his tee shot deep into the woods. As he enters the dark forest to find his ball, panic overtakes him. The steam evaporating from the ground triggers memories of smoking battlefields where he watched all his company die. Upon finding his ball he remembers why he quit playing golf and started drinking.

Now is the time.

Now is your time. For many of you, your past has held a grip on you for far too long.  You’ve been carrying regrets and guilt long enough. It is time to lay them down.  Over the course of this message series we spent time examining just how to do that.

Like Junuh from “The Legend of Bagger Vance” we all have a choice to make.  We can hold on to our guilt and regret or we can come out of the shadows of the past and embrace the future that God has for us.

The choice is ours to make, but the good news is that we are not alone. God walks with us, giving grace to us every step along the way. Let’s agree not to waste another day reliving what coulda been.  Now is the time.