Tuesday, April 20, 2010

What Might Have Been, or What If?

Bonnie Gray over at Faith Barista posed a “what if” challenge last week. Instead of focusing on regrets and the “what might have beens,” she challenged her readers to write down five “what ifs” and then to do one of them. The idea was to follow through on one of your possibilities and see what happened.

Bonnie personally challenged me (via Twitter) to participate, and I said I would if I could think of a “what if” to write about and do.

But there’s a problem.

I don’t do “what might have beens.” I’ve never done “what might have beens.” And perhaps that’s why I’m having such trouble coming up with one “what if,” much less a list of five.

It is an act of courage
to ask what if;
It is an act of self-deception
to ask what might have been.
One looks forward, one
looks backward; both
are ways to view the world.
Both are ways to understand one’s soul.

What if creates possibility;
what might have been celebrates
regret.
What if grasps the thought of
what could be,
what might be;
what might have been is gripped
by the memory of what never was.

I did think of examples of what ifs, but not ones that were theoretical.

Some 17 years ago (ancient history, in electronic terms), I tried for months to get the IT Department where I then worked to approve me doing an email newsletter (I told you this was ancient history). For two months I went to these weekly meetings of the “governing council” to plead my case. They wouldn’t say no, but they also wouldn’t say yes. What I was proposing, they darkly hinted, would disrupt the email network, bring the U.S. financial system to a halt and cause the collapse of Western civilization.

And then one day, on my way to yet another council meeting, I had a blinding flash of the obvious. They couldn’t stop me. Short of shutting down the email system, they couldn’t prevent me from sending out an email newsletter.

So what if I sent it out anyway?

So we started by sending out the newsletter to 100 people as a test. Within two weeks, word of mouth had pushed the distribution to 1,500. Within a month, we reached every employee who was on email, about 6,000 at the time, all by word of mouth. And we never advertised its existence. (I also didn’t tell Law or Human Resources about it either, and that eliminated the need for “review” until the newsletter was so accepted and so established that a “review” wasn’t needed.) (“Review” is the polite word for “censorship.”)

Call it a blessing or a curse, or both, but I don’t deal in what might have beens. I never have. There are plenty of mistakes I’ve made that I’ve regretted or repented, but I’ve never dwelt in the land of what might have beens. And it’s odd, too, because my introverted nature would tend to lead me in that direction.

I think I’ve flunked the “What If Challenge.”

Perhaps it is a gift,
the gift of faith, or
perhaps it is a blessing,
the blessing to encourage
(for to encourage is to be
blessed),
to ask only what if, and
never what might have been.

(To see more posts on the “What If Challenge,” visit Faith Barista.)

"Door," photograph by Nancy Rosback. Used with Permission

27 comments:

Red Letter Believers said...

Glynn... love Bonnies blog and your response. What a memory bank you have.

David

Kathleen said...

You do have the gift of encouragement. For that you get A+

n. davis rosback said...

the what might have beens, i think, is probably like quick sand.
not a good place to wander in..or wonder in.

and...
thanks for using the door photo :-)

Leslie said...

I agree about going back and recreating unless we see god's hand in a more profound way in His choice.

Now I am reminded to write my if...

TommyStark0109佩政 said...

Learning makes life sweet.......................................................

Deb said...

No what ifs... that is great.. no regrets. Besides, it's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. :)

Kelly Langner Sauer said...

I seriously need to take on a bit more of your perspective. wow. Great post.

M.L. Gallagher said...

Can't change one iota of the past anyway -- so what if becomes an exercise in futility.

Now, what if... in story-telling.

you've got the art and the voice to make it rich.

Great story-telling Glynn.

I so love reading your musings on life and living.

togetherforgood said...

I once read the book "Loving God with All Your Mind," and she points out that when we think about the might-have-beens, we're really disobeying the command to think on "whatsoever things are true." It was fascinating. I have been challenging myself lately with the what if's. What if I did this instead of that? But the might-have-beens? They're gone and done for and that's okay. I have a whole rich life to live right now.

Maureen said...

Excellent post, Glynn.

I think it's possible to ask "what if" in the context of doing something in the present tense or that looks forward, because that opens into the possibility of seeing things in different ways. It's when the question is asked as a look-back, in the past tense or as a conditional, that it seems to me to become so problematical, because what's past can't be changed, it can only be examined for its lessons.

shrinkingthecamel.com said...

Congratulations on flunking the What If test. I am not so sure I would flunk as well as you. You may be more introverted than me, but I have been more hesitant and afraid to take bold action if it may have led to disapproval. I was always the good boy. That all changed for me some time in my early thirties, but I left a bunch of what if's on the table that are now "what might have been"'s. Oh Well. All part of the plan, I guess. In some bizarre holy twist. Today, the what if's are all screened through a prioritization of "what must be." (I'm backing myself into a corner, aren't I?)
How about this? No regrets. That, I can live with.

shrinkingthecamel.com said...

Congratulations on flunking the What If test. I am not so sure I would flunk as well as you. You may be more introverted than me, but I have been more hesitant and afraid to take bold action if it may have led to disapproval. I was always the good boy. That all changed for me some time in my early thirties, but I left a bunch of what if's on the table that are now "what might have been"'s. Oh Well. All part of the plan, I guess. In some bizarre holy twist. Today, the what if's are all screened through a prioritization of "what must be." (I'm backing myself into a corner, aren't I?)
How about this? No regrets. That, I can live with.

JC Dude said...

The land of regret is a bad place to live. My biggest "What if"...what if I really believe what God says about me? That is a healthy "what if".

Thanks again for your thoughts and insight.

Peace,
Jay

Bonnie Gray said...

Glynn, I've been heads down, cranking out today's Faith Barista post & short film entry today -- and I just read this post.

I am speechless.

This poem/prose here is AWARD WINNING. I am going to print this out and frame it, where I write.

** What If .. An Act of Courage**

"It is an act of courage
to ask what if;
It is an act of self-deception
to ask what might have been.
One looks forward, one
looks backward; both
are ways to view the world.
Both are ways to understand one’s soul.

What if creates possibility;
what might have been celebrates
regret.
What if grasps the thought of
what could be,
what might be;
what might have been is gripped
by the memory of what never was."

You did NOT flunk the "What If" Challenge... Glynn. You soared in this challenge.

Don't forget to submit the link tomorrow -- I don't want Faith Barista readers to miss this inspiring JEWEL.

S. Etole said...

You are indeed an encourager ... and a "non-flunker!" Excellent post ...

Billy Coffey said...

If there is one guy in this world I would like to have coffee with, it would be you, Glynn.

50centlove said...

Popping in from FaithBarista blog. You didn't fail the challenge. I think you explained What Ifs in a very meaningful way. What Ifs are scary, their dangerous, but they are also lessons learned.

Thanks for sharing :O)

HisFireFly said...

You indeed have passed.. with flying colours of encouragement!

Susan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Susan said...

The essence of hope... what if. For in looking at the what could have been... what if will always pass by until we see it in a rearview mirror as a what could have been. Crucial.

Melissa_Rae said...

Another person who saw "what if" as being about regret...
I must have missed the boat because I saw it as all about challenge for the future. This is a great take on the challenge Glynn & it inspired me to look forward and not regret the past. I don't think you failed!

Kristine said...

I wouldn't say you've flunked at all but offered an excellent perspective because what might have been's do tend to lead a person toward guilt or regret. Good post :)

Rebecca on The Homefront said...

If that's flunking, sign me up for failure! This was great, Glynn. Thanks for posting.

bahava said...

love this and love your story!

Stacey said...

Thank you for your kind comments and tweet regarding my 'what if' on legacy and our story! I am so honored!

I love what you said about the stories you used to hear as a child. We learn so much after the fact don't we? But the blessing of a story is, that we still really have it after all these years!

Blessings,
Stacey

Katie said...

Thank you! I have been trying to learn and understand my heart and soul.... I have done both what if and what might have been...You expressed my feelings better than I ever could with this.

Katie

prashant said...

i think, is probably like quick sand.
not a good place to wander in..or wonder in.
data entry work from home