I’ve made a handful of regrettable decisions in my life; who hasn’t?
I’ve chosen people to be friends with that were toxic and leached off of my stability.
I acted flippantly with many boys’ hearts (Biggest Flirt in high school four years running right here).
I know that over the years I’ve said things that, were I to recall them, would leave me cringing deeply.
I most certainly chose the wrong college to attend. I mean the one that was so, so wrong for me on every level in the most obvious of ways. And then I merely survived my years there.
I forgot my best friend’s birthday one year, a fact which haunts me to this day. Even though I didn’t technically forget, because I sent a card in advance of it, but then let the actual day slide right by without acknowledgment.
I took on one truly terrible, miserable, no good client. Or make that one and a half.
Regret is a funny thing. It’s an emotion we all feel about various decisions in our pasts from time to time, yet in principle, we know better than to invest in.
We understand on some level that regardless of what went down in the past or how, or what terribly uncouth comment we made, or hideous shirt we wore every third day of third grade (seriously, why?), our past is the path we took to get where we are today. And today we are alive, so all things considered, it’s the best place to be.
Beyond that, the reason why regret cannot be substantiated is that it involves passing judgment in the present over decisions made in the past. Nothing could be more unfair.
We have information now that we didn’t then. We have acquired wisdom we didn’t yet possess in the past. We are now (hopefully) fuller, more expressed, more loving versions of ourselves than we used to be. Of course it’s easy to sit on our high horses of everything-we-know-today and pass judgment on our sophomoric selves of yesterday.
Regret cannot and will not rectify what has passed. And since nothing that has passed is alterable, regret merely manages to keep us trapped in a state of self-hatred, shame, and negativity.
Our power to change the past is limited to the opportunity we have to view it differently, and to do that we must move from regret to forgiveness.
Regret shames and shuns; forgiveness reminds us what necessary lessons were born from our past experiences.
Regret punishes us for not being good enough or experienced enough; forgiveness tells us we did our best.
Regret keeps us focused on what was; forgiveness paves the way for could be.
We are born to grow. We are here to evolve into our most fully expressed, loving selves. And the path to get to that state is thorny and untamed. We aren’t gaily frolicking down a paved road, here. We’re off-roading it through the brambles, and learning which plants are prickly as we go.