Sunday, January 16, 2011

Admitting Regret in a World of Justifications

It seems as though it has become taboo to admit to regret these days. I mean I guess it makes sense, in a world where it seems as though politicians, CEO's and celebrities alike have taken a secret pact to deny any personal misdoings til the cows come home (and pass the buck when that inevitably fails), how can we expect the subject of regret to be handled with anything but dissent. To regret something we have to first admit 1) that we did it in the first place and 2) that we were wrong. It's much easier for us to pretend that our past blunders never happened, and when that isn't possible for one reason or another to pacify our egos by falling back on a cliche phrase like "I don't regret anything because good or bad everything that I have done/experienced made me who I am today."

I am so ready to blow the lid off that saying! Don't get me wrong it has it's inherent values; but it so easy to use it as a crutch and I personally feel that while it is a well-intentioned train of thought, intentions aren't everything and this mindset stands on rather shoddy foundation if you ask me. The main problem with that saying, and so many others exactly like it, is that it presupposes that we as people have arrived and we are completely satisfied with who we are today. People, however are ever changing and growing (or at least they should be), and I am of the belief that after ripe comes rotten. When we convince ourselves that we have nothing left to learn, no more growing left to do, that's when we truly rot as a person. There is always room for improvement and when we're not moving forward we are coasting backwards.

The saying also implies that the ends always justify the means, i.e. that if we are in fact as happy with ourselves as we say we are, then a.) there was only one possible way we could have wound up this way and b.) those personal errors in the past don't require amends because they were absolutely necessary in accomplishing this final product we are today. This ideology is an extremely dangerous slope to begin sliding down, and I am not going to go into it entirely today, but suffice it to say that there is always more than one way to get to a given destination. Justification of past errors based solely on current satisfaction with oneself also completely discounts our ability as humans to learn from the mistakes of others!

Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.  ~Douglas Adams

I personally believe in a Creator who made me in his image, and though I do value my mistakes for the lessons they taught me I feel that God is powerful enough to have provided me with a more righteous path to get to where He waned me to be. That being the case, then me skipping out on some of those past mistakes wouldn't have been such a crucial loss as mainstream media would have me think. 

My point here, however, is not to trudge up old feelings of guilt, but to break free of the shame that admitting regret seems to impose. I can regret things I've done in the past, I can wish with all of my heart that I hadn't done certain things that I did in fact do, without devaluing the lessons I learned as a result of those mistakes. And, my main point here is that I do. I have regrets. (insert big sigh of relief) 

It is so much easier to move forward when we are not ashamed to admit that we aren't perfect. I haven't arrived, nor will I ever. Regret is something we can learn from once we admit to it. There is something cathartic about saying "Yes, I absolutely do have regrets. My mistakes made me who I am today but I don't need to cling to them to feel like me. I could still be the person I want to be without them. I do value the lessons I learned from personal errors, but those errors are not essential to who I am, and therefore I can let go of the guilt associated with them.

When discussing this subject just yesterday with my husband he kindly reminded me that "you are not that person anymore." And he was right, I am not. If I were still the person I was when I made the mistakes I did... then I wouldn't regret them now would I? If I had to cling to something I'd rather cling to my feeling of regret than to my justifications. The great thing about admitting regret, though, is that I can now let go of the guilt associated with it. I may not be able to make amends in the traditional sense, but I have been forgiven by my Creator, and now I can finally forgive myself.


  1. "The greatest discovery of any generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering the attitudes of their minds." -Albert Schweitzer

  2. Love your blog title and your style! Yes it's so much more refreshing to admit that we are not perfect. I have that down. Nice to meet you, Jody

  3. Thanks Jody! It's nice to meet you as well! After checking out your blog I now have to add New Zealand to my list of places to visit. I look forward to reading more!

  4. There are such a large number of regrets I have in my life, I wouldn't know where to begin. You probably know most of them anyway.

    Although I do feel that many of the things I should regret (and used to regret) I no longer do because were it not for them, I wouldn't have even met you necessarily, there are certainly things I continue to regret, and after hearing your perspective on this, I am okay with that.


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