I don’t believe in regret.
Not that I don’t think people have them, on the contrary almost every person I’ve ever talked to has at least one. I simply don’t believe in having them. Put a different way, I don’t believe in giving the past that much power over your future.
A while ago I was hanging out with a friend at TGI Friday’s on a Thursday night, and as we sat at the bar, he was asking me how this works. How do I live this so-called “regret free” lifestyle? I told him it was simple really; just decide not to regret anything. His slightly puzzled stare over the jack and coke prompted me to elaborate a bit.
“I’m not saying I haven’t made any bad decisions, Lord knows I have and continue to do so on pretty much a daily basis, but I don’t believe in giving those decisions the power to rule my future…and maybe that’s not the smartest way to live, it’s probably not, but that’s where I’m at.”
Here’s the thing; I’ve seen firsthand the devastating effects of living in the mistakes of the past and it’s not pretty. My dad is so entirely wracked with guilt over mistakes he’s made that he is literally at a standstill in life. He won’t work. He won’t call. He won’t go visit the family. He won’t move out of his mom’s house. His marriage is falling apart. His children feel abandoned. Why? Because of the mountain of regret he’s buried under over how he ran and treated his family so many years ago.
So am I saying that regrets and mistakes can simply be ignored and let go? Yes and no. I would never be so arrogant as to say that the regrets people face are not real, that there aren’t things that could, would, and should be taken back in a second if that were possible.
But it is?
No it’s not, it’s physically impossible for us to really take anything back. Actions can be made up for, apologies can be offered, wounds can heal and mistakes can be corrected. But all this takes place after the fact. The original damage has been done. And time doesn’t go backwards.
The musical Rent (yes I know it’s pretty much morally corrupt, yes I love it anyway) has a song that has a line that goes “there’s only here there’s only this, forget regret, or life is your to miss.” And while I may disagree with the deeper theological meaning of life being the only thing there is, I wholeheartedly agree that regret leads to missing out on life.
So how can all this be avoided? I honestly think acceptance is the key. Now before you write that off as some new-age hippie statement, hear me out. When you made this decision that now seems regrettable, remember at one time it was the decision you wanted. It may have seemed like the best decisions at the time, or the smartest, or maybe it wasn’t. Maybe you were going through a really tough time and made a stupid, regrettable decision. Maybe your heart was broken and you did something that went against your better judgment. Maybe someone hurt you and you lashed out.
It’s ok. You’re human.
Are you going to judge yourself by your mistakes or your victories? Is the past going to bind you so tightly that the future has no chance of breaking you out? In my opinion the mistakes are much better learning tools anyway, (and generally make for more interesting stories).
So let’s let it go. You’re not perfect, you never will be. Lord knows I never will be. And it’s ok. Your life is worth living free of the burden of regret. Trust me, it’s going to be a great adventure if you let it.