Withholding the Biggie

If you were going to die soon and had only one phone call you could make, who would you call and what would you say?  And why are you waiting?

Stephen Levine

What does it mean to withhold something?  Tax people would say that it’s about “an employer deducting tax from an employee’s paycheque and sending it directly to the government”.  Sounds pretty straightforward and neutral.  Another meaning speaks of a “refusal to give something that is due”, such as not telling a police officer your name.  There’s definitely a problem with this one, but hopefully not earth-shattering.  A third definition talks about “suppressing an emotion or reaction”.  How about uttering “I’m fine” to a questioning friend when you’re feeling anything but?

I guess we can all live with these last two transgressions, although the dissonance between what’s true and what you say could wear on the soul over time.

There’s an elephant in the room, however, as in something huge and heavy.  Look at Stephen’s questions.  Whether it’s now or as your final breath approaches, what haven’t you said to the ones most dear?  It could be “I’m sorry that I didn’t stand up for you when that bully was having his way.”  Or … “I feel horrible that I laughed at you when you couldn’t keep to your diet.”  Or … “I gossiped about you when your marriage was falling apart.”  Or … “Last year, I stole money from your bedroom dresser when you were downstairs hosting a party.”

All of this is serious stuff.  If you’re about to die, it would help if you fessed up.  Actually, it would be a good thing even if you were going to remain healthy for many years.  However, there is something so important to say, that the saying of it has us soar with the eagles, and the not saying of it has us plummet like a stone.  Werner Erhard knew what must be said before we die:

When you’ve said all of the bad things and all of the good things you haven’t been saying, you will find that what you’ve really been withholding is “I love you.”


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