The Four Things That Matter Most

FourWhile culling through my volumes of books I came across an interesting title The Four Things That Matter Most by Ira Byock.  Dr. Byock spent many years with terminal patients in hospice care and gleamed from those near the end of life the most important things about living that makes it all worthwhile. The wisdom of people near the end of their days points to how we can all enjoy life fully. There really are only four things that are important to have in your life.

The four things are summed up in 10 words:  I’m sorry, I forgive you, thank you, and I love you

The concepts of remorse, forgiveness, gratitude, and love when applied and expressed in all relationships deeply enriches the quality of life lived with the special people in our lives.

These concepts relate well to the relationship parents have with teenagers.

“I’m sorry, I was wrong; please forgive me.”  We try to be perfect but we are not and never will be; we are always a work in progress no matter how old we are.  Letting our teens know that we make mistakes, often because our parents before us made the same mistakes with us, is the sign of a healthy relationship.  The teen greatly appreciates the recognition of the parent’s own frailties, which also models the behavior for their future reference.  Note: this apology is not, “I’m sorry I don’t have all the answers” but rather, “I’m sorry for the way I acted, which was wrong.”

Admitting when you’re wrong goes two ways in any relationship; it’s not one-sided with one person always apologizing and the other person always accepting the apology. Each side in turn will be wrong and needs to express their remorse for their behavior.

Being able to accept an apology is another important part of living.  This means really letting go of the wrongdoing and not harboring residual resentment; really forgiving the person for their transgression. When you hear, “sorry is not enough” then the wound is so deep that forgiveness is too hard to get to, for now.  Realistically what can the person do besides apologize?  Beg at your feet for forgiveness? “I’ll find a way to make it up to you” – really?  When you are able to truly experience forgiveness and allow that this person in their heart did not mean to wound, you are well on your way.

With teenagers this can be difficult because they can sound really mean and offensive, but forgiving them this stage that they are going through is important to do. As much as it may seem that they mean some of the terrible things that they may say and do, they truly are worth your forgiveness, even if they don’t ask for it. Give it to them anyway – forgive them their teenage angst.

Gratitude – can they ever be grateful enough for all the things you have done for them? Heck, you gave them life itself! – a little thank you every now and then would be nice, wouldn’t it?  How about the gratitude flowing the other way?  Thanking them for the joy that they bring to your world (yes, there actually are many joyful moments) both now, in the past, and in the future. Thanking them consistently and regularly with real gratitude is a good habit to develop.  It’s easier to notice and harp on the bad things – the crankiness, the surly attitude – but looking for the good and mentioning it with real gratitude is well worth doing.

“I love you” – we all live for those three little words.  They are so powerful and so important to hear and to deliver.  A world without love is not a life worth living.

COMMUNICATION TAKEAWAY:  The Beatles said, “Love is all you need” but sometimes we wonder, is love enough?  It turns out that in addition to love we really need three other relationship qualities to have a happy life – an expression of remorse when we have erred (the opposite side of that coin is guilt, which will eat away at a person), forgiveness (not just the words, but in the heart), and gratitude (real appreciation for another person’s efforts).   However possessing these four qualities is still not enough – they must be outwardly expressed – verbally shared, for the relationship to flourish.

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