I recently had a conversation with someone who says that she doesn’t regret anything. Everything that she has done and everything that has happened to her have helped make her who she is now. She is grateful. I appreciated her acceptance of her decisions and envied her ability to not look back.
I look back a lot.
I do have regrets. I regret not taking a writing class in college. I regret not going to prom my senior year of high school (long story). I regret not keeping up with my exercise in recent months. I regret purchasing a yellow couch.
I wonder sometimes what my life would be like if I had made different choices. If I had majored in Spanish or stuck with the creative writing I did as a child? I don’t regret the life I have now, but I can imagine how my life could be different. I don’t regret the path I took so much as wish I could take more than one path at the same time.
Living with regret, without being bound by it, keeps me from being paralyzed in the face of decisions. I can survive making the wrong choice.
I have felt remorse – deep regret. For things I’ve done or left undone. For things I’ve said or left unsaid. I regret pain I caused others and chaos I created for myself.
Remorse opens the path to admission of wrongdoing – my spiritual tradition calls this confession – and that makes it possible for me to seek and receive forgiveness, one piece of the gift of undeserved, unearned love – grace. Even when it’s not possible to fix what I’ve broken, divine forgiveness frees me to live unfettered by the past.
The experience of blowing it and starting again – resurrection — has shaped me in profound ways. It softens the edges of my judgment toward others. I am less brittle and better able to extend grace to others.
I do have regrets. I don’t regret the regret.