I don’t feel shame about too many things I’ve done but there are a handful of things that definitely keep me awake at night, if only once in a while. There are little incidents where I know I could have behaved better and then there are bigger things where I realize that I may not be as good a person as I thought I was.
Many years ago, a great friend of mine was very sick and it was likely he would die and I couldn’t take it. I didn’t have the courage to deal with the situation. And so I didn’t. I didn’t call when I should have. I didn’t visit when I could have. I was a coward. I’ll take that shame to my grave.
Years later, my friend told me of some of the friends who were there for him in those days and how he’d never forget them. And I was embarrassed that I wasn’t one of them.
Finally, my wife, who is the better part of me, convinced me to confront my fear and re-connect with my friend in a way I should have all along. It was sage advice and I’ve been a much more attentive friend since. I think he’s forgiven me. To his credit. I know he remembers though. And I’m not sure I can really ever forgive myself. I may never escape it.
I failed him. I hurt someone I care about deeply because of my own cowardice. And it was nothing but cowardice. Please, please, please, don’t ever let that happen to you. It will disturb your dreams and haunt your deathbed.
The people you love need you now, more than ever. This is always true. Always. And if you think it’s a hard road that you are travelling because of the sadness inspired by the hardships of others, please understand that the people who inspire your grief know that they are making you hurt. They almost always do. And they need you to make them feel less guilty about it. Call them, hold their hands, sing their songs and make them feel like their best selves. And you’ll feel like your best self.