How many times have you said those two words to yourself or to someone else? Hundreds of times? Thousands? When you watch a film or read a book, do you think, for example, ‘If only he had gone to the bus park that day, he would never have lost her’. Have you ever said ‘if only’ before an event or during? No, of course not, it’s something we say with hindsight and hindsight is always 20/20 isn’t it?
Pretty much all of us have grown up with books, films and TV series which deliver ‘if only’ as an absolute; if only she hadn’t gone up to the attic she’d still be alive, if he hadn’t picked up that slipper he’d never have found the love of his life. We are served a never ending diet of black and white, two narrow paths, one which leads to a perfect life and the other which leads to ‘if only’. Is it any wonder that give ourselves such a hard time over the decisions that we make? We have seen the unfortunate consequences of making the ‘wrong’ decision too many times and often can’t see past black or white when, in real life, there are many shades of grey (at least 50 apparently).
The thing is, we never really give much thought to what the outcome could have been if the ending of the story wasn’t ‘perfect’……..
What if Jesus had sent Judas packing with a flea in his ear so he couldn’t betray him for 30 pieces of silver? Would Jesus have saved himself untold suffering? Yes. Would Christianity as we know if today exist? Probably not. Jesus could have ended up living a perfectly happy life with a wife and children, carried on with his teachings for a while and then drifted into obscurity. He followed the difficult path, the one that we would never follow if we knew the outcome: torture and a slow lingering death.
On a more frivolous note, what if Cinderella took off her rose coloured glasses 10 minutes after the wedding and realised that the castle was cold and draughty, her prince, though handsome, was mind numbingly dull and the glass slippers gave her blisters? Not quite the happy ending that we’ve all been brought up with is it?
The fact is that we can ponder decisions for days, weeks or even months. We can run every possible scenario through our minds, looking for the black or white answer that we see on the big and small screens and in our favourite books but we will never find it. We cannot fast-forward our lives to see the outcome, to see if we win or lose. We could decide to buy lottery tickets with the last of our money and win millions, lose all our friends, party too hard, marry someone stunning only to have them cheat on us and end up crashing our Ferrari out of our head on drugs. Alternatively, we use the money to buy food to keep ourselves going for another day, find out the store keeper needs an assistant, work for him and serve green beans to the woman who ends up being the love of our live. On the other hand, we see a starving child, turn to give them the money and get run over by a bus.
There are a million different scenarios and, if we try to plan for or even think about all of them we’ll go crazy so make the decision and forget it, follow the path and don’t look back. Life is not about fairy tale endings, goodies and baddies; when we say ‘if only’ we are looking backwards with regret, wouldn’t we be better served to enjoy the now? Black and white is not reality, enjoy the shades of grey……….