Imagine for a moment that life is like a grand play. The stage is the world, and we are both the actors and the audience. Our interactions, dialogues, our emotions and reactions create the script. But what if I told you that the best scenes, the ones that truly touch the soul, are those that are often the hardest to perform?

You’re probably thinking: “What could be so challenging?” It’s not the grand gestures or the extravagant monologues. No, the most powerful scenes are shaped by four simple phrases. These are the words that can heal old wounds, mend bridges, and rekindle the most strained relationships. Yet, they demand courage to be said and humility to be heard.

In his book, “The Four Things That Matter Most,” Dr. Ira Byok gives us a script to perform these scenes. He outlines four essential things we should say to the most important people in our lives. They may seem simple, but they carry within them an incredible power.

“Please forgive me”

First is, “Please forgive me.” These three words are more than a plea; they are an admission of guilt, a request for understanding, an appeal to the compassion of the other. They put us in a position of vulnerability, of humility, recognizing our own fallibility. Saying “Please forgive me” is like standing naked in a winter storm. It’s chilling, it’s uncomfortable, but it’s the only way to seek the warmth of forgiveness.

“I forgive you”

The second phrase is, “I forgive you.” It’s a phrase that carries the power of healing, for both the one who says it and the one who hears it. It’s like a salve for wounds caused by grudges and resentment. It’s the key to unlock the shackles of past offenses, allowing us to move forward unfettered.

“Thank you”

Third on Byok’s list is, “Thank you.” This is a phrase that acknowledges the good in others, that recognizes the value they bring into our lives. It’s an affirmation of their positive impact on us, a celebration of their actions, a validation of their worth. Saying “Thank you” is like giving a gift of appreciation, it’s simple yet it brings a sense of profound fulfillment.

“I love you”

Finally, and perhaps most impactful of all, is “I love you.” This short phrase, comprising only three words, encapsulates the deepest human emotion. It’s a declaration of affection, a confession of our heart’s deepest longing. Saying “I love you” is like lighting a torch in the dark, casting away shadows and illuminating the space between two souls.

These words—please forgive me, I forgive you, thank you, I love you—they are powerful, they are transformative. Why? Because they express our deepest emotions, our sincerest feelings, our most genuine intentions. They strip us bare, revealing our authentic selves.

Yes, it can be hard to say these words. It takes courage to expose our vulnerabilities, to express our need for forgiveness, our willingness to forgive, our gratitude, our love. But that’s the beauty of life, isn’t it? Life is about exploring these depths, plunging into the challenging dialogues, stepping into the emotional spotlight of the world’s stage.

Don’t leave anything unsaid. No regrets. Only then, you’re truly living.

Stephen Boudreau serves as VP of Brand and Community at Virtuous Software. For over two decades, he has helped nonprofits leverage the digital space to grow their impact. To that end, Stephen co-founded RaiseDonors, a platform that provides nonprofits with technology and experiences that remove barriers to successful online fundraising. He is an avid (but aging) soccer player, audiobook enthusiast, and the heavily-disputed UNO champion of his household.

Copyright ©2023 Stephen Boudreau.