Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with a lovely young lady with more than her fair share of struggles in life. She confessed to me that she struggled with addiction, that she didn’t have a place to live, and that she was, in a sense, desperately hopeless in general.
But the thing that struck me most was this…she said painfully, “I wish I could just start over and do it all again.” When I heard her sentiment, I had several responses. One, I felt something deeply as my heart was crushed by the weight of the reality that a beautiful soul is suffering in these ways. I also resonated with her statement to a certain degree, because there are plenty of things I regret in my life.
We all have regrets, plain and simple. And these regrets are going to effect who we become. People are ever-changing and the ways we manage regrets go a long way in determining whether we change for better or for worse. With this in view, let me share a few ways to view regrets as opportunities instead of burdens.
Regrets allow us the opportunity to see past our blind spots and identify weaknesses in ourselves. If I find that my credit card payments are far higher than I’d like, and I regret having gone on the spending binge for a new fall wardrobe, I may learn that I value being trendy a little too highly, and that I would have been better off wearing my year-old coat, or spending a little less on non-designer jeans. Self-awareness is a beautiful thing and those who are most self-aware experience great benefits in life.
As we age and experience the things life has to offer, both the blessings as well as the challenges, healthy individuals grow in wisdom. This wisdom allows us to make good decisions not only for ourselves, but also allows us to pour into others. Regret when evaluated critically will teach us lessons that we can then share with those experiencing difficulties.
We’ve all known of people who are highly defensive. We’ve all been defensive ourselves. Defensiveness means we tend to think of ourselves as generally good, or right, and we defend ourselves against any beliefs that would say otherwise. Experiencing regret says “that wasn’t a good decision and maybe you’re not so smart after all”. Regret allows us the opportunity to take responsibility for the wrongs we’ve done, which provides a great foundation for personal growth.
VIEW OF CONTROL
Finally, there are often things we regret that simply weren’t in our control to begin with. If a child or family member makes a string of bad decisions with heavy consequences, we may regret not having done a better job to teach or help them. But the fact of the matter is, we often regret things over which we had little or not control. Dealing with this type of regret allows the opportunity to let go of those things that we couldn’t control to begin with.
Personally, the things I regret most have to do with people. I have regretted on a small level things like selling a guitar I really liked, and now I miss it. But in the big picture, I get over that pretty quickly. But the things I really regret, those that have hung on for even years, is not treating people lovingly. As I think about the young lady I referred to in the beginning, I need to ask myself, “If my heart is truly broken, what will I do about it?” My answer will say an awful lot about whether or not I truly believe what I’ve shared with you. Today, I can honestly say, if I do nothing, I’ll regret it.