I enjoyed Dos Equis’s The Most Interesting Man in the World ad campaign from several years ago. The campaign shared hilarious one-liners about “the world’s most interesting man”, one of my favorites being, “His only regret is not knowing what regret feels like.”
If only we could live not knowing the bitter sting of regret! But as broken creatures in a fallen world. We all have regrets.
Jon Gauger’s book If I Could Do It All Over Again: Christian Leaders Share the Most Important Lessons of their Lives helps us learn from the regrets of others and thus pursue wisdom (Proverbs 11:14, 13:20). My prayer is that you will grow in wisdom by contemplating the following regrets of Christian leaders.
1. Tim Keller
“I would do less surfing of the Internet, without a doubt. There are a hundred other things that would be better: more time with my wife, more time praying and meditating, more time reading. I think the Internet is a friend of information but an enemy of thought. It’s great at snippets of information, but it doesn’t help you think or reason. In fact, the more you’re online, the less patient you are with sustained reasoning and with a longer narrative. It doesn’t make you more able to think through critical issues. So I would certainly spend less time on the Internet.”
2. Colin Smith
“I’m surrounded by books in my office. The ones that make me smile are books that were topical and trendy in the 1980s but seem almost valueless now. In terms of my reading, if I could do life over again, I would spend more time with books of proven history—classic authors. I would pay much less attention to the books about vision and change (and whatever else was happening at that period of time). The press has produced a relentless amount of ‘the next new thing.’ Once you’ve been around for a few years, you look back at what was the next ‘new thing’ (say in the 1980s), and it just makes you smile and say, ‘Why did I even bother?'”
3. Jan Silvious
“Life lesson: ‘What might have been does not exist, so don’t even go there.’ I know a lot of people who live in regret, and they live in what-might-have-been: “If only I had done this, if only I had done that.” That thinking takes us nowhere. Because what-might-have-been doesn’t exist, why do we even try to visit? I have learned to look at my life in the past and simply say, ‘You know, what might have been does not exist.’ Thinking about those moments takes us down every time. Let’s not go there!”
4. Joni Eareckson Tada
“I would look at a lot less news on the television. I have to confess I’m a news junkie. When I go to the airport, I always stop by the news kiosk and pick up the latest edition of Economist magazine or Newsweek. I have to know what’s going on in the world. That’s not a bad thing. It’s just that sometimes it becomes a fixation. It can depress my spirits. I mean, it’s enough to know that there is an Islamic State where awful extremists are doing gross and detestable things in the name of Islam without having to hear another version on CNN or ABC Nightly News or the PBS Newshour. That is why Psalm 101:3 is such a good verse for me: ‘I will set no worthless thing before my eyes.’ A television that is set to nothing but 24/7 cable news probably qualifies as a ‘worthless thing’ for me.”
5. Ravi Zacharias
“I wouldn’t worry as much. God is completely in control. Consider the emotional energy we spend pondering things, losing a night’s sleep, or regretting certain thoughts we may have had or shared. As a Christian speaker, you worry that sometimes you may not have done as well preaching a sermon, so you toss in bed at night trying to recapture that moment. That is a draining thing, especially trying to relive a speaking experience. I would spend far less time worrying about all that and more time making sure those mistakes didn’t happen.”
6. George Verwer
“I should have worked more on the area of patience and sins of the tongue. I thought I was working on this. I declared war on it and worked on it. But that’s been my area of failure, where I’ve also hurt my wife at times. I’m just so quick to react.”
7. Joe Stowell
“I would do more feeding of my soul. I wish I had taken more time—made time—(because we’re all ultimately responsible for our own calendars) to read more. I would read more history, more biographies, more C.S. Lewis, more Muggeridge, a novel—to feed my soul and feed my mind. I find that as I look back, there’s a shallowness that busyness creates. If I could do all of this again, I would take more time for meditation, just sit for 20 minutes a day and say, ‘Lord, speak to me. Let me hear your voice.’ I would take more time to reverse the ultimate shallowness that busyness threatens to bring.”
8. Erwin Lutzer
“If I could do it all over again, I would spend an awful lot more time investing in the lives of my children. Of course we prayed with them and taught them and so forth, but in retrospect I really didn’t enter into their world as I could have. One day my second daughter, Lynn, wrote me a letter when she was about to go into college. She said, ‘Dad, I cannot compete with your studies of Martin Luther and theology.’ Talk about an ice bucket experience! Sure, I was studying Martin Luther, and I was studying theology. But for my child to think that she couldn’t compete with that? That so set me back that I began to change my priorities. I realized I was on the wrong track. If I could do it over again, I would invest more in the lives of my children.”
9. June Hunt
“I would be less impacted by the opinions of others and continue to learn and grow and look at the opportunity to benefit others. I love learning, and I have viewed life as a fascinating journey. There will be times of failure, but this is no reason for me—or you—to keep beating ourselves over the head because of our failures. Years ago, a friend said to me, ‘June, you really don’t know what grace is all about.’ I replied, ‘But I’ve taught on it!’ She said, ‘Yes, but you don’t have grace for you. You have grace for others.’ That was an eye-opener!
10. Tony Evans
“I love sports. I love watching sports and keeping up with sports. But I would probably spend a little less time on sports if I could do it all over again. Plus, I would have traveled a little less.”
Find more important life lessons from Christian leaders in John Gauger’s book If I Could Do It All Over Again.