Have you ever done something you really regret? Like you wish you could just rewind the time and swallow the words? You just want it back. I understand that feeling so well.
But some people don’t understand regret. In fact, most of us don’t. I’ve heard people tell a story of brokenness or just plain stupidity, then add flippantly, “No regrets” or “I don’t regret anything”. I want to tell them they’re idiots. Why don’t you have regrets?
Most people who have no regrets are making the same mistakes over and over. Why? Because regret is a memory wall that prevents future stupidity.
Regret is a gift.
Why don’t you regret making out with that girl while you were wasted in college? You should.
You don’t regret telling your spouse what you really thought of him, which led to spending the past several years earning trust back? I bet you do.
You don’t regret not taking that job because you were afraid you wouldn’t succeed at it? You don’t regret yelling at your kids, or overlooking bad behavior one too many times, being too demanding or too lenient? You don’t regret that? Well, you should.
Regret is the result of sin. Mistakes. Ignorance, selfishness or greed. It’s part of being a human this side of heaven.
Regret help us evaluate who we are and who we want by looking ahead asking, “Will I regret it if I do or don’t do this?” Regret helps us make better decisions in the future.
A life of no regret is a life without memory. And I want no part of that.
With that said, I am terrified of regret. And that’s why it is such a gift. Regret is a boundary line. It’s where I know I need to stop in a yelling match with my husband, “Or I will say something I might regret”. It’s how I know how much time to invest in my work or when to put down my cell phone at home because I will regret not being home and present for my children.
Regret, or the fear of regret, keeps me on the straight and narrow. It is the sharp-edged reminder of past mistakes. Fear of regret forces me to look down at my self-inflicted battle scars and recognize that I don’t have to keep injuring myself and others unless I want to.
Regret offers wisdom. Regret keeps me humble.
But I don’t stop there. The sting of realizing I did not act or speak as I wished I had leads me back to God. Regret that condemns me isn’t God’s voice. Conviction, which is from God, and regret can co-exist.
Do you think Peter wishes he had spoken up for Jesus at his hearing, rather than denying him? Of course he would rather have been brave. Or what about Adam and Eve? Think they wish they had a takeback on the fruit thing? You bet they do.
But when we take the pang of regret to God, we can ask for his help in our transformation process. We can apologize and ask for the divine eraser of forgiveness to come and wipe away the past, whether it was one bad choice or a whole lifetime of them.
Regret is not a label. I don’t regret myself. But I should regret things I’ve done that separated me from God, others, myself and his creation. Once I receive forgiveness, I can be reunited. And not only that, when God takes away the shame of our choices, we get to love him, ourselves and others better. After all, Jesus said, “She who has been forgiven much, loves much.”
Regret is a sign you need to be forgiven, but more than that, it’s an invitation to be loved and love in return. Isn’t that awesome?
See, regret is a good thing. If we don’t let it condemn us, it can serve as a guidepost back to relationship with God and the ones we love.
Because I am still in this body on this side of heaven, I am thankful for regret. I am in need of this painful gift.