My sister, who will soon celebrate her 93rd birthday, is sharp as a tack, but she is limited physically. Because of this pandemic, she rarely leaves her house, and I don’t visit her because I do not want to compromise her health. However, we do talk on the phone. Last week she told me that her boys, her boys, who are nearly as old as I am, her boys, who love her exceedingly, do come to see her. They come to play dominos. If one of them sees anything in her house that needs to be repaired or replaced, he goes to Home Depot, buys whatever is needed, brings it back, and does the work.
“I don’t want them to do that,” she told me. “They don’t have the time or the money.”
“Listen to me,” I replied. “Be grateful they love you, and let them do for you whatever you need. That’s one thing they will never regret. They will never regret the things they do out of love.”
I have learned there is no such thing as a life without regrets. In fact, regret is a big part of life. If you live long enough, you will make mistakes. At one time or another, we all do or say things we desperately wish we could undo. “If only,” and “what if,” must be the four saddest words in the world. “If only I had done this or that—we continually try to rewrite history in our head.”
Regret is the most common emotion that people mention in daily life. It is a conscious, negative emotional reaction to an undesirable situation. It brings a feeling of sadness, loss or sorrow over something that has happened, or something that might have been. Regret, and the self-recrimination which comes with it, tends to be a long lasting emotion, almost impossible to shake.
When I left my work and my home in Belgium to come back to the U.S. to take care of my mother, I regretted the necessity, but I never regretted what I did for Mama, because I did it out of love. However, lest it seem I am painting a self-portrait of a perfect, dutiful daughter, I will tell you that, early on in life, I made some block buster mistakes. Those mistakes no longer haunt me, because I have committed them to God, but when I think of that time, which is rarely, I realize that I learned a lot about how to live in the future.
No amount of regret can change the past. Regret is a form of punishment itself, and it is an appalling waste of energy. You can wallow in your failure and constantly replay it until you are out of your mind, or you can try to make things right, but for the most part, you cannot undo what is done. You can, however, see your mistake for what it is, try to understand, and learn from it.
I have discovered that, more than things I have done, I regret offending or hurting others by things I have said. I have a big mouth, and I don’t always think before I speak. Scientists say that every word that has ever been spoken, since the beginning of time, still hangs on the air waves. If that is true, they believe that one day we will be able to retrieve from the atmosphere words that were spoken centuries ago. For example, we could retrieve Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, and hear him deliver it in his own voice.
Honestly, I don’t want anyone to retrieve my voice and hear the words that I have said. Sometimes it may be possible to undo offensive actions, but I don’t believe you can really undo words. No matter how much you apologize, no matter how sincerely you seek forgiveness, the words are still there to be remembered, words that you regret.
Regret can be a healthy thing. It is a sign that you care, that you are paying attention. When you see your mistake for what it is, it is time to do something about it. It is time to seek forgiveness, not only from the person offended, but also from God.
Learn from your mistakes. Don’t allow regret to control you. Every day is an opportunity to turn your life around, to begin afresh.
Even the Apostle Paul admitted that he was not perfect. He says so in Philippians 3:12 (The Living Bible), “I don’t mean to say I am perfect. I haven’t learned all I should even yet…”
In verses 13 and 14, the Apostle says, “…Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God is calling us up to heaven because of what Christ Jesus did for us.”
When you have done all you can do to make up for your mistakes, don’t continue to live your life regretting yesterday. Commit yourself to The Lord, forget the past as Paul did, and live your life so tomorrow you won’t regret today.
REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!