We often hope, whether stated or not, that we never have to experience regret. Often, our biggest challenge (to avoid regret) is when we stand at a place where we know God desires us to surrender to Him. Surrender for a believer is perpetual. This boils down to a question of our wills. It is easy to hesitate for fear of what others will think or how they will be impacted. Or how we may be judged.
‘Life” is what happens while we are busy making other plans. One guarantee in life is that it eventually lands us in places we never imagined, both as a result of choices we make, and for purposes which God intends. Our response to it will determine the altitude with which we cruise through and whether we are strengthened during the process. Or whether we crash and burn and then have to pick up the pieces and begin again.
In this life, regret can be defined as grief, sorrow; and pain of mind. Even having a sincere desire to do our best in life, since we are unable to see the future, we will likely make some choices that we may regret. The level of discomfort or sorrow we feel is likely to be directly in proportion to the motive of our effort more than anything. If we truly did our best and things didn’t go as we had hoped, it is often easier to forgive ourselves and move on. On the other hand, if we were warned, we may have a longer journey to reach the point of putting the difficult season behind us and moving on to a better place as well as to the necessary healing.
So if we are unable to completely avoid regret, what can we do when we experience it?
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. If you’re like me, you would love to know when you 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 the work, and let go of expectations around outcome and timing. Our work is to shed layers 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, with a calm and gentle courage, it builds a strong bond. It’s where we can learn there is a place beyond regret.
A Word of Caution: Don’t assume you know for another. Regret is a deeply intimate reflection of a particular person’s life, hopes, dreams and choices. Each of us need space and grace to walk this path, some pieces of the journey we may find we need to be alone with God. At other times, we may be more comfortable sharing the burden with a deeply trusted loved one. It is a unique and individual experience. We each can be one who brings hope and encourages healing in our life and in the lives of others.
Once we have allowed regret to change from something that drags us down and overwhelms us, we can experience growth that can make us more sensitive, kind and caring… a true refreshing breath to others.
Regret may linger for a season, but it loses its sting!
Sheri Geyer is a Realtor & Christian Life Coach
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