We all have regrets in life. Each of us wish we’d have done something different, taken a lost opportunity, said, “I love you,” to someone now passed on, or just chosen a different path in life to walk.
In the years that I have pastored and counseled people, the strongest regrets I have encountered are those from people who lost a loved one to death. I hear comments like, “I wish,” “If only,” “It’s not fair,” “Why?”, and so many others. These regrets can consume a person to the point where he or she becomes paralyzed by them, living in guilt and frustration.
Regrets can be strong or minor. No matter the case, dealing with regrets is something that each of us must do.
REGRETS SHOW THAT YOU CARE
If you had no regrets, you would not care. In the case of the death of someone dear and close, I would be bothered by someone who claims kinship or friendship with the departed and yet has no regrets. Regrets demonstrate the level of love and care that we have for such a person. Regrets also demonstrate that we are now fully aware of the missed opportunities.
So in a very real sense, regrets are good. If you didn’t have any regrets, you would be calloused or simply unaware of the opportunities that have slipped you by. Our past shapes our future and affects our present. We can’t escape that fact. Although we cannot change the past, we must be aware of it, because the past shows us the path we took to get to where we are at. Until you know where you’re at, how can you get to where you want to be?
Regrets can help you see the path clearly — as long as they don’t consume you and keep you in the past.
NEVER WALLOW IN REGRETS
Regrets have a lamentable attraction to feel the need to wallow in them. We flay ourselves with these regrets like some sort of whip on our guilty conscience. Guilt and regrets are God-given responses to teach us lessons. Wallowing in them is counterproductive.
If you lost someone dear, you’ll want to wallow in your own self-pity and focus on your regrets. But that robs the person you love of all the other things they accomplished in life. You focus on your failings with them instead of them. Regrets can show that you care, but wallowing in them is an act of selfishness.
Wallowing in regrets keeps us from living. It keeps us from moving forward.
USE THE LESSONS THAT REGRETS TEACH
Regrets show us that we can’t afford to miss any more opportunities. If you lost someone close to you, don’t let your regrets keep you from being part of those who are still alive. Take the lessons you learned and try not to miss any more opportunities.
Spend more time with others. Ask yourself, if so and so died today, what regrets would I have? Then go out and do something about it. Regrets allow us to realize what is most important in our lives.
Your regrets should show you where your values are. Use that. As a Christian, I use regrets as motivation. I regret some of the things I have done in my life. I regret some of my choices. But having a loving and forgiving God allows me focus on what I can still accomplish, the things I can still do, and the choices that are still before me. Regrets can be very motivational.
The Apostle Paul was very zealous in attacking and persecuting Christianity. After his conversion, do you think he had regrets? Of course he did. Those regrets propelled him forward (1 Corinthians 15:10).
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