Fixing and Protecting Our Primary Relationships

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Walter Albritton

By WALTER ALBRITTON

My good friend Billy Gaither sent me a book recently. It’s not a new book nor an old one but I had not seen it. First published in 2004, it was revised and republished in 2014. As I began reading it, I quickly realized it is one of those books you wish everyone in the world would read.

The title of the book is “The Four Things That Matter Most”, written by Ira Byock, a palliative care doctor who served on the faculty of Geisel School of Medicine of Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.

I must add to the praise heaped upon   Byock for offering us commonsense wisdom that can change our lives. His “Four Things” tell us how to heal, protect and nurture our relationships with the people we love. The older we get, the more we realize our relationships are our greatest treasures.

Byock’s “Four Things” are really four simple statements which he calls “powerful tools for improving your relationships and your life.” They are short sentences comprising “the core wisdom” of what dying people taught the doctor about what matters most in life. These are the four simple statements:

Please forgive me.

I forgive you.

Thank you.

I love you.

Dr. Byock invites us to “say” these things to the people who mean the most to us. His book is filled with stories of people whose lives were changed when they became willing to speak those eleven words to their loved ones.

I love hearing this counsel from a physician because this is what I have been preaching for 70 years. It is pure gospel. I know from personal experience these four phrases can resolve difficult relationships with grace and integrity. Why? Because it gives God a chance to melt and change our hearts.

Forgiveness was a central theme in the teaching of Jesus. He made it clear that to receive God’s forgiveness for our sins, we must forgive others for their sins against us.

Forgiveness saved my marriage many times because I became willing to say to Dean, “Please forgive me,” and because we both learned how to say often, “I forgive you.”

During Dean’s last days on this earth, every time anyone adjusted her pillow, gave her medicine or caressed her forehead, she said one of those Four Things — “Thank you.” And not knowing anything better to say, I kept saying to her, “I love you.” In those painful hours, I experienced the power of those simple statements.

If you have an injured relationship with someone you love, now is the time to get busy “saying” those Four Things before it is too late. If you decide to wait, and death ends the opportunity for you to ask for forgiveness, you could spend the rest of your life regretting you did not follow Dr. Byock’s wise advice. Do not ignore it. Say what you need to say — before time runs out.

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