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Do you Have Regrets? Part 2

Chris and Tim pick up where they left off in last week's episode about regrets. They talk about if men or women statistically have more regrets, sacrificing family life on the altar of career success, and more.


Speaker 3:

Welcome to The Art of Relationships. This podcast is produced by the Biola University Center for Marriage and Relationships. For additional resources on healthy relationships, like videos, blogs, or events near you, visit our website at cmr.biola.edu.

Chris Grace:

Well, welcome to another Art of Relationships podcast. I'm Chris Grace.

Tim Muehlhoff:

And I'm Dr. Tim Muehlhoff.

Chris Grace:

And Tim, a communications expert. You've been studying and working in this field as a professor, a speaker, a writer, an author of numerous books. And Tim, one of the things that we get here on the Art of Relationships podcast are cool materials, ideas, thoughts, and topics, that we get a chance to explore. I'm a psychologist, and so I get this ability to stay in a literature that is so intriguing for me, just like it's intriguing for you to stay in your com lit and read things out there.

Tim Muehlhoff:

Yeah.

Chris Grace:

And we came across something that we talked about on a previous podcast, and that is the regrets that people have, right, over time. People experience a lot of things in life, and for some, they are burdened by or struggle with decisions either made or not made, actions taken or not taken, Tim, that caused regret, and the loss, they feel, of what could have been if I had only done it that way, I wished I could undo this choice. If I can undo this choice, everything would be good.

    And Tim, a study at Cornell did this, and looked at the topic of regret. Even before we get into some of these things that older people regret, Tim, it's a psychological field of study like it is in other disciplines, but regret takes on this feeling of how do we explore it, understand it, and help people get through it. But let me ask you this question, you don't, first time I'm going to ask it to you, so it'll take you... Who do you think shows more regret in gender differences studies, more women, or do men more often experience-

Tim Muehlhoff:

Wow!

Chris Grace:

Or do they even differ a little bit in how they experience regret? But in general, let's start with maybe one. How about-

Tim Muehlhoff:

But wait, wait! You didn't let me answer!

Chris Grace:

No, this is the first question.

Tim Muehlhoff:

Oh, okay, all right.

Chris Grace:

In terms of romantic or relationship regret-

Tim Muehlhoff:

Oh!

Chris Grace:

... who experiences more romantic or relationship regret, men or women?

Tim Muehlhoff:

I'm going to say men.

Chris Grace:

Oh!

Tim Muehlhoff:

I'm going to say men.

Chris Grace:

Just, when they narrowed it down to romantic relationship, they found about half of the women had remote romantic regrets, about 44%, but of the men, only 19% of men experience-

Tim Muehlhoff:

No way!

Chris Grace:

... and they think it might've been that there's just this quicker tendency to replace partners. And maybe there's just the cognitive way, cultural ways. But...

Tim Muehlhoff:

That's really... So I just thought of "the one that got away."

Chris Grace:

Yeah.

Tim Muehlhoff:

Being haunted by the one that got away.

Chris Grace:

Yeah, yeah.

Tim Muehlhoff:

And then for some reason I link that to men more than women.

Chris Grace:

Yeah. Yeah.

Tim Muehlhoff:

But yeah, yeah. Oh, that's interesting..

Chris Grace:

Yeah, and it's just one study. There's a lot of different things going on out there. So, Tim, people have been studying and looking at regrets for a long time, and sometimes they're a value, right? I mean, a lot of younger people probably process regrets differently than older people by going, "Ooh, I can make this, I can understand my values better, or I can make better choices next time, or this is good insight for me," whatever it might be. But it does have some longterm effects on our wellbeing when it stays with us.

Tim Muehlhoff:

Oh, yeah. And remember, the study is, Cornell's interviewing older Americans, just saying, as you look back on your life, what are the regrets? And they came up with a huge list, like 31 different categories. The podcast we did on regrets, I think we did four or five. And we'll only do a couple more, but I think some of these... Let me mention one that I think affects the marriage, but in a slightly different way. So one of the regrets is that you did not help someone in need. You saw a need, and there was this oughtness, we ought to do this, but for whatever reason, we didn't do it. So.

    I have a very good friend of mine who's a writer, he's a speaker, and when they were married only two years, and they didn't have much, him and his wife, he learned that a friend of his was in law school and was basically living out of his car, and I mean, just eating scraps of food, and learned of this, and the Holy Spirit said to him, "Take everything that's in your savings," and there wasn't much, "and give it to this guy." And my friend didn't do it. Didn't do it. And later, much later, said, "I really regret not taking that faith step."

    Now, Chris, to me, this is a perfect one that we were saying last podcast, okay, so what if only one spouse hears it, and the other doesn't? Like, if I went to [Noreen 00:05:31], said, "Honey, guess what, the Lord told me to give all of our savings to the Graces, she'd be like, "I didn't get the memo. I did not get that memo." So obviously there's going to have to be agreement between the spouses taking these pretty big faith steps. But sometimes I think as American Christians, we put limits on God.

    We say, "Listen, you can ask this, but you can not ask me to do that." And we put a limit on God. We say, "So, listen, I'm not giving up my savings for anybody. I'm not doing that." And I think God is saying, "But are you willing to follow me?" And again, if somebody came to me and said, "God told me to give all of our savings to this person," I would ask by five million questions.

Chris Grace:

Yeah.

Tim Muehlhoff:

Right? End of the day, we would. But maybe God's asking you to take a fairly radical faith step. And so that's where it has to be discernment, wisdom, counselors, but there could be a regret that I never stepped up and did it, I never..

Chris Grace:

Yeah, so Tim, you're opening a door, I think, that is going to be, for a lot of our listeners, a fascinating one to go into, and that is discerning or hearing God's voice. How do we know when it's God, and how do we know when it's just simply our own shame or our own guilt, right? We're driving down the street and I see a person in need. It's so easy for me to either justify passing by or to feel the compulsion and need to just stop the car, get out, and do what I can. And, and I've always wondered, because I've made both choices, you live a lot of years, especially in Southern California, and well, almost any city, anyway, you're going to be confronted with this at least, if not daily, weekly, probably, right?

Tim Muehlhoff:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Chris Grace:

Well, Tim, I think the question is, how do you know and discern when God is speaking? Suppose your spouse isn't there, suppose you're single, suppose you've got some friends but you're trying to make a decision pretty quickly, and it calls for that, right? I mean, some of these are like, wait, wait, wait, I could give this guy money right now, or food or I... But the opportunity leaves, and discerning God's voice at that point?

    So I'll give you my first step. I think the first step it takes is you'd better be listening to God at all other times. You'd better be seeking him out that morning, that afternoon, or that night. At some point you'd better be in a habit, a habitual form, or I guess recognizing that I better be listening to his voice in the little things and in big things, but on a regular basis, if I'm going to discern him in these hard to predict moments of emergency, let's say, like how do I now know if God's speaking, [crosstalk 00:08:27] test.

Tim Muehlhoff:

So, let me give you a "for instance." So we were headed towards Chicago, Wheaton. We'd been given a job offer at Wheaton. Out of the blue comes a Biola offer. Now, this is Southern California, right? So, I'll never, I'm not a math guy, Chris, you know that, I'm a former theater major. So my wife says to me, "Okay, first, you need to know what Southern California's economy is like." Tim, how much do you think the average house costs in Southern California compared to Chicago? Chris, blew my mind. I was like, "Wait, what? There's no way it could be that much." She goes, "Tim, that's the market."

    But I felt God was leading us towards Biola. But here's what I did to give me credit. We met with a financial planner, a guy we trusted utterly, who handled our finances, and I looked at him and I said, "Floyd, if you look at me and say, 'You guys can't afford to live there based on a Biola salary, and even if Noreen gets a job,' right, 'you can't make it financially,'" I would have said, "No. We're not going to California." And Noreen knew that.

    So for me, if you want to ask me practically, how do I confirm that this is God, I go to friends like you, I go to friends who are qualified in certain areas like a financial planner, and maybe that's not super spiritual to our listeners, but I sit down and take the counsel of friends. Otherwise I don't think I'm going to follow what I think is the prompting of God.

Chris Grace:

And I guess, Tim, that begs this very question is, you had better know your friend very well. Assuming they listen to God, praying they do, and then lifting them up saying, "Lord, I'm about to go to Chris. I'm about to go to Frank. I'm about to go Tim. I'm about to go to John. I need you, Lord, to go ahead, help them listen to you and let them direct. You be a voice." And it's very rare that you put all eggs in one basket, Frank's basket, right?

Tim Muehlhoff:

Right, right. Right.

Chris Grace:

Because you have Noreen, you had other friends, you had your advisors at UNC, I'm sure, and you had people at each of those schools that you called. And so there's more than just one voice, but there can be that moment where this one can be the difference.

Tim Muehlhoff:

And Floyd and Diana were our dear friends, they spoke for family life for a lot, and so we absolutely trusted them. But let me say one thing very quickly. Now, this may be controversial, I don't know. Let's say I absolutely feel God is leading me towards California to teach at Biola University, and Noreen says, "Honey, no. I can't do it. I can't, I will be a nervous wreck, because we're going to be living on a shoestring budget. Guess what, Chris, I'm not going."

    Now, some people might say, buddy, I thought you just said you were pretty convinced this was God. Yeah. But I'm going to trust the fact that he's speaking to my spouse too, right? And that's what's cool about having a spouse who listens to God. Right, I agree with you that sometimes you're putting your eggs in a person's basket and they're not developing that skill of hearing God. Yeah.

Chris Grace:

Yeah. Yeah. And then discernment, Tim, comes in, is sometimes God has, seems to remain quiet.

Tim Muehlhoff:

Yeah!

Chris Grace:

And it feels like either decision is okay, like there's no, and that can be tough too, where, how do you discern from a human level, obviously God's got to be a part of your discernment, but how do you do that when God seems to be silent on a topic? Like, "Should I date this person or not?" And he's like, "Yeah, I don't give any answers."

Tim Muehlhoff:

Right. Right. Right? So I'm an Augustine person on this issue. My students, they hear this all the time in my classes. I write on the board, one of my favorite Augustine quotes, where he says, "Love God and do as you please."

Chris Grace:

Yeah.

Tim Muehlhoff:

Now both of those are important. Remember Jesus, seek first the kingdom of God, and these things will be added. So I think Augustine is saying, "Do you love God? Do you love his kingdom? Okay. Then do, as you please." I think God was saying to me, "Listen, Wheaton would have been great, Biola's great."

Chris Grace:

Yeah.

Tim Muehlhoff:

Where, ultimately, where do you want to go? And then I felt him nudging me towards Biola, though.

Chris Grace:

Right, right.

Tim Muehlhoff:

But I would have pulled back in a heartbeat if Noreen would have said to me, "Tim, we are going to be this close to financial ruin in California."

Chris Grace:

Yeah. It is always interesting when Jesus is confronted, even by people with bad intentions or malicious thinking, let's say the Pharisees who confront him and say, "What's the greatest commandment?" And they knew that he would have to come up with a perfect answer, and he did, he said, "The greatest commandments is 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and your spirit.' And the second is like it, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"

    So Tim, I think when it comes to true discernment and knowing which way to go, I think Augustine had it right. That is, but that very first premise, love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, soul, mind, and your neighbor as yourself, that's a very high hurdle to get over before you could just say and then do what you enjoy, because some people just say, "Oh yeah, I love God, and I'm going to go do what I want," and so-

Tim Muehlhoff:

So let me ask you this question. Do you think God had one person for you to marry? All along.-

Chris Grace:

Well, yeah, thanks for bringing that up. So-

Tim Muehlhoff:

Hi, Elise, how are you doing? You listening?

Chris Grace:

Yeah. Yeah. And you know, and I think we differ on this, and I could be wrong, but in my theology, which happens to be very biblical...

Tim Muehlhoff:

Mine's taken from the Britannica encyclopedia.

Chris Grace:

Sorry. No, I do feel God had one person out there.

Tim Muehlhoff:

Right.

Chris Grace:

Now, and I think Elisa was it. It is shown that to be the case in our marriage that's existed for all these years. And I just feel like as time goes on, he orchestrated this one person. And there are others, though, too, that just say, "Nah, there's just way too many options out there to limit yourself to waiting and waiting." But what's your thought?

Tim Muehlhoff:

Okay, knowing that I have to go home tonight-

Chris Grace:

What's your thought?

Tim Muehlhoff:

... let me say this very quickly. I cannot imagine being married to anybody about Noreen. I cannot imagine the way that she compliments me, encourages me. That being said, Noreen and I have had this conversation, I believe what Augustine said is true. I believe that there could have been other people that would have, if I would've made different career choices, right, I don't think before the foundation of the earth, God was like "It's Noreen [Manahan 00:15:16]." Now, I can't imagine that. Right, honey, love you, I'll be home at five.

    But I'm more of a, you and I do disagree theologically on some of these issues, but I do think that God is like, "No, no, there's different avenues. There's different paths." Right? So, yeah. That's just an interesting one. Hey, here's another one.

Chris Grace:

Okay.

Tim Muehlhoff:

This isn't going to surprise anybody. When they asked these older Americans, this is what they said. "I work too much. I just work too, I"-

Chris Grace:

I put too much time into my company, my organization, and I gave them my fidelity. My, I lived for them.

Tim Muehlhoff:

Yeah. One nurse was quoted, interesting, "All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending too much time of their lives on the treadmill of work." So this is a woman who basically does hospice care, and so she says "Interesting that men would say this." So when you were saying who is struggling with more regrets, I was thinking kind of, generally, of men-

Chris Grace:

Oh, I see, yeah.

Tim Muehlhoff:

... because of midlife crisises.

Chris Grace:

I see, uh-huh (affirmative).

Tim Muehlhoff:

Right? And I think men feel that deeply sometimes. So I do think she's, I think this is right, that we put all of our time and attention into trying to make it as... And I think men struggle with this. Women do, of course, women can be just as ambitious and career focused. But men want to make their mark. And what that looks like, I think, can be very socialized for young men, that this is how you make your mark.

Chris Grace:

Yeah. Men or women will experience these probably at the same level in different ways. But Tim, I think the concept and the idea is one that these older people probably have pulled out, what is a very common human problem, and that human problem is to distract ourselves in ways that make us feel like we're contributing, that we're a value, that we are important. And humans want to feel that I've made a mark, I've started something, people will remember this. I mean, that's why people document everything they do, because it gives them this sense of I have importance or value.

    And I think Tim, what we buy into, the unhealthiness is, that this defines me, right? This is... And yet the sad part is, no tombstone probably anywhere will they list all of the various positions you held in some company. They're going to list, here's a man who was kind to his family, or here's a man who died alone, whatever. So I think, Tim, a regret like those can be really hard, because we're so busy and we got to go out and we have to either make money or pursue this dream, and sometimes at the expense of relationships.

Tim Muehlhoff:

And so one spiritual practice I do, I don't do a ton, I wish, we talked about regrets, I wish I had more spiritual practices. I read the book of Ecclesiastes every year, and a commentary on the book of Ecclesiastes every year. And I've been doing this for about the past five years. And it is such a good reset where, "under the sun," right? This life, it doesn't matter what you do. Even really, really good godly things, like building a church, building a Christian university. Under the sun, you're going to have vanity, it's going to be chasing after wind. You're just going to be like, "Oh, that didn't do it. That wasn't it."

    Now above the sun is where you say, "Okay, I'm doing this for God. This is for his glory. I'm putting God's kingdom first. But that is two totally different ways to look at this life. And it's interesting for me, I can get sucked in under the sun, just like anybody else, building your resume, getting published, where's our podcast, how high is it ranked, stuff like that. And God isn't against ambition, but if you're putting all your eggs in the ambition, "I'm going to make my Mark," then God has already said, "This is chasing after wind."

Chris Grace:

So Tim, when this topic comes up, I think of, people who have seen work and ambition and life differently than most, one healthy example, well, I think would be the Puritans, who would say that work, for them, it didn't matter the job so long as they did it well and they found pleasure in... If it was cleaning a street or a sidewalk, and that's what you did all day long, then your contribution was that you did your job with excellence and gave it to God as a way of service to him. And I think the Puritans' views on work are extremely challenging, because it does mean that they look at any job as important, and that can help the person that's highly ambitious, trying to make their mark, which of course are going to get erased by the next guy anyway.

Tim Muehlhoff:

Yeah. Of course. The average age of a Puritan was 35, dying at 35.

Chris Grace:

Died pretty early, that's right.

Tim Muehlhoff:

But do you remember the group Caedmon's Call?

Chris Grace:

I don't know if I do.

Tim Muehlhoff:

So Caedmon's Call-

Chris Grace:

Oh yeah! Yeah, yeah.

Tim Muehlhoff:

Right, look them up, Derek Webb, early Caedmon's Call, to me, was one of my ultimate favorites. Derek Webb wrote a song called Bus Driver. And it's about a guy who every single day drives a bus and drops people off. And you could think of that as an absolutely monotonous job, but he's a Christian, and so when that person gets off the bus, he says, "You know what? I just helped that person get to her work, and she's going to get paid, she's going to help support her family. That man's a janitor, and I just dropped him off, because that school needs to be clean." So he took what could be a really monotonous job, being a bus driver-

Chris Grace:

Yeah, I love it.

Tim Muehlhoff:

... driving the same route over and over and over and over, and he took it not under the sun, he took it above the sun. I'm doing this for kingdom reasons. I love that, Chris. I think that's powerful.

Chris Grace:

I do too. And I would imagine that when he is 90, and he's sitting around, I bet he does not experience this regret, the regret of putting too much time in. Instead, he probably says, "Lord, what a joyful thing to be able to partner with you in making something beautiful, just simply because I gave it to you."

Tim Muehlhoff:

So at family life we talk about different affairs, right? Chris and Lisa are on family life team as well me and Noreen. And so we talk about different affairs. Everybody immediately thinks about the romantic sexual affair, but then we list other ones. We list a materialism affair. We list a family affair. But then we list a career affair.

Chris Grace:

Yeah.

Tim Muehlhoff:

And I think it's, you're finding meaning outside the marriage, and you're putting all of your emotional energy into this career, and you come home exhausted, and you don't have time for your kids or for your wife. So I think Americans, we are either moving towards a family affair or a career affair. This is just a great reminder. Again, the Cornell study from older Americans, who are ahead of us, who said, "Listen, guys, I did crazy weeks and didn't take vacations. Didn't do this, didn't do that. And I'm telling you at the end, I'd go back and do it different."

    Boy, let's listen to that! And I think that's seasonal right, Chris, when you're just starting your career, it's going to be long hours and hard work and stuff like that. But then there's got to come a time, and again, I want to be sensitive to the economic status of our listeners.

Chris Grace:

That's right, yeah.

Tim Muehlhoff:

So, I mean, my dad worked double shifts at General Motors. We needed the money.

Chris Grace:

Yeah.

Tim Muehlhoff:

So sometimes you just don't get a chance to choose.

Chris Grace:

Some people, some spouses have had to move away for six to eight months or a year, right, to be either in the military or go up to Alaska fishing, or whatever they're doing in order to make money for their family, knowing it's a season, and knowing that they're doing this for an ultimate bigger purpose.

Tim Muehlhoff:

And it's not going to, that's the crazy thing, it's not going to last.

Chris Grace:

Yeah.

Tim Muehlhoff:

My grandfather, John [Gustaf 00:23:41] Muehlhoff, how do you like that name, Chris?

Chris Grace:

Gustaf Muehlhoff.

Tim Muehlhoff:

He loved books. He loved books, so much so that he was the librarian of his church's library, Chris, for 30 years. When he died, they named the library after him. So if you actually go East Detroit, it's kind of cool, there's the John Gustaf Muehlhoff library. We went there, and then I did a dorky thing, okay, I did a dorky thing. I walked up to a person coming out of the library, and I said to them, "Hey, what do you think of this library?" "Oh, it's great, it's awesome, blah blah." I said, "Hey, who, who is that? Who's John Muehlhoff?" And she looked up and said, "I have no idea." Chris, that's going to be all of us. Right?

Chris Grace:

Yeah. Yeah. Just maybe a generation from forgetting, two generations, even for family forgetting-

Tim Muehlhoff:

Two, yeah, oh, Chris.

Chris Grace:

... a lot about who we are. And so then at the end of the day, Tim, I think that puts into perspective, how do we view the contributions we made, the things we did? Are we investing in relationships? Are we growing and listening to our partners, our friends, and are we... Because at the end of the life, when it comes to these studies, like the Cornell study with these older people, those that have healthy, solid, good friendships, no doubt are experiencing less regret, simply because they've made wise investments. And it pays off! We all get in trouble at times and face trauma and difficulty, and when friends come around that you have just worked with and been involved in their lives, all of a sudden, the love and support that you need so much to get through something, and...

Tim Muehlhoff:

A holistic approach to life, where work, career, is part of that. We're not denying that career and work and stuff like that, and vocation-

Chris Grace:

Raising children, that's all you do all day long.

Tim Muehlhoff:

Yeah. But it's a package deal, it's a holistic package that we've got to keep in mind. And that's hard in a country that tends to promote one over the other, right? But let's have a holistic approach, I think, love the Lord, your God with all your heart, mind and soul, not just one aspect.

Chris Grace:

Yeah, that's great.

Tim Muehlhoff:

Chris, hey, let me say this. It is great doing this podcast with you. You are one of my confidants, you are one of the people that I go to for advice. Often don't heed it. But I would go. And so there's no regrets doing this podcast, man, with you, this is fun.

Chris Grace:

No, there's not. In fact, it's a joy, because we know that we're trying to serve the Lord here and help bring to listeners, just to new thoughts and new ideas that maybe they hadn't heard before. And Tim, it's really good, fun to do that with you.

Tim Muehlhoff:

All right.

Chris Grace:

Hey, take care. And we'll, if y'all are interested in a little bit more about what we do, and you're a new listener or wondering where to get some information, go to cmr.biola.edu, and check out more podcasts, check out our blogs, conferences, and other materials. We've got marriage mentoring, we've got all kinds of things. And even if you want to help support us, you can do that to keep this podcast going. All right-

Tim Muehlhoff:

All right, Chris.

Chris Grace:

Good talking with you, Tim.

Tim Muehlhoff:

Take care.

Speaker 3:

Have you ever been asked to mentor a young married couple, but were afraid to say yes? Thankfully the Center for Marriage and Relationships is here to help. The CMR's Marriage Mentoring Curriculum covers important topics like communication, forgiveness, and the ever important sexual intimacy. It even provides tips on when and how to refer a couple for professional help. Sound interesting? Check out the resources page on our website at cmr.biola.edu.

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