We often hope we will never have to experience regret. Our response to it will determine whether we are strengthened during the process, or if we crash and burn and then have to pick up the pieces and begin again.
Even having a sincere desire to do our best in life, we will likely make some choices that we may later regret.
If Regret is Unavoidable, What Choices Do We Have?
Avoid indulging it. Imagine you are swimming in the ocean and your feet have become entangled in seaweed. The seaweed is “regret” (apply this reflection to anywhere you may feel stuck). You tug and swim harder, yet you are still unable to move forward with the seaweed wrapped heavily around your feet. Indulging a regret, means we go over and over it, analyzing every detail, and becoming more tangled by replaying in our minds all the “woulda-shoulda-and-coulda(s)”. We may hold on to it becoming identified with it which can cause us to feel paralyzed or victimized.
Be honest with where we are and learn to make new choices. We have the choice to simply look at it, feel it, accept it, learn from it, and when ready, untie it and swim on. Repressing our regrets, on the other hand, creates a different problem because we believe we are actually “getting on with life”. Yet, by ignoring the feelings that need to be felt, we tend to harden our hearts over time. Acknowledging our regrets, helps us face and feel them, learn from them and make good wherever possible. We can then forgive ourselves and others and find healing, rather than be held hostage to our past.
Just do the work without worrying about the timing. We like to have timelines attached to transformation, want to know when we will finally be done with a particular regret and freely swimming on. The best way to gain what we need from the situation is to focus on shedding layers of remorse that get in the way of living and showing up fully. Any time it may arise, we can simply notice it, allow it to deepen our experience of vulnerability and humility, and grow in integrity.
You don’t have to do it alone. Speak your regret out loud to someone close who supports you or write it in a journal between you and God. There is something inherently restorative in either of these acts. At times, if we are able to reflect on the respective journeys we have taken in life with a close friend, it builds a strong bond. It’s where we can learn there is a place beyond regret.
Once we allow regret to change from something that drags us down and overwhelms us, we can grow more sensitive, kind and caring… a true refreshing breath to others.
Regret may linger for a season, but it loses its sting!