it’s a common phrase these days and makes as much sense as that famous movie line from the 1960’s, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” You’ve never really loved if you’ve never said I’m sorry and we’re all going to have regrets.
Regret is a painful and powerful emotion. It can fill us with self-loathing. It involves imagining the ways that one’s life might have gone differently. It can leave us stuck in bitterness and resentment. Interestingly, people are more likely to regret what they didn’t do than what they did do — the sting of missed opportunities looms large in our minds.
But regret also can be motivating, helping us to change, guiding us to act differently in the future. Working through regret can lead to good things like forgiveness, self-acceptance, forbearance, self-control.
So what can you do?
- Practice self-acceptance — recognize that you’re always learning, changing, growing
- Forgive yourself – let go of the disappointment or anger or resentment that you feel about yourself
- Apologize — your actions can harm others; let them know that you know what you did affected them. “I’m sorry” is a powerful sentence.
- Take Action — use your feelings to fuel future action. Maybe you weren’t capable of a different choice at the time but what you’ve learned leads to a different action in the future.*
- Be thankful.
The greatest antidote to regret is thankfulness. Feelings of gratitude begin to edge out the negativity of regret. This Sunday we’ll sing a song that expresses the power of thanksgiving with these words:
The Lord is never far away, but through all grief and distress will be with us, giving peace and joy and blessing. Like a mother’s gentle hand God leads us to all praise and glory.**
A thought for today.
Grace and peace,
*adapted from Kendra Cherry, “How to Cope with Regret.”
**prose modification of hymn verse from Sing Praise to God Who Reigns Above.