An acquaintance recently posted this as her status on Facebook..."Never regret a thing, mistakes are the ingredients to life!" It started me thinking about the pros and cons of regret...
For the most part, I've lived my life with "no regrets," what that means to me is a philosophy of not living in the past, nor letting past mistakes or poor choices cloud my ability to live and love in the present. I've often said that I don't regret anything I've done in the past, since it has taken all those experiences combined for me to evolve into the person I am... a person I am pretty much comfortable with now days, at least 95% of the time :-)
Yet, when I read that comment on Facebook, I couldn't help but wonder if she truly didn't want her husband to have any regrets over his recent bout of infidelity which had hurt her heart so much. Should he regret those actions? Can she really just dismiss them as "ingredients of life"? Or wasn't she including that particular issue under her canopy of no regrets?
Have there been some things I have done in life that I regret? Oh hell yes, plenty of them! Haven't most of us? There have been things that I regret not having done too. I agree that life is a learning experience, and that whatever choices we make will teach us something... either what to do or what not to do in the future. I definitely don't think it's healthy or advisable to let regrets and remorse from the past overshadow us to the point that it leads to depressing, self-loathing, and loss of the ability to lead a happy and productive life. I think to regret something so deeply that one decides suicide is the only acceptable response is beyond tragic. I believe that redemption is always possible. I want to believe that, even if in some very dark cases I have wondered.
I think that, kept in proper perspective, regret serves a purpose. It reminds us that a choice we made or an action we took turned out in a way that left us unhappy, or hurt someone we cared about. Regret gives us the opportunity to re-examine our choices and decide if we want to choose differently in the future.
Over the years I've told both of my children some of the decisions/actions I regret making as a parent, things I wish I would have done differently or not at all, and things I wish I would have done that I didn't do. I want them to know that parenting isn't easy and I am not a role-model of perfection. I never heard my parents admit that just maybe they'd made a mistake once or twice in our growing up years. I think it might have healed a lot of hurts it they would have. The response I got from my children was so supportive and loving, they were quick to point out all the good things they thought I was as a mother, and both noted that I judge myself far more harshly than they ever thought of. That's another good point to consider. While regret and remorse may have a place in our lives, and I think they do, there is absolutely nothing good that comes from beating oneself up over and over, for a lifetime of perceived mistakes and inadequacies. It is said that in order to love others you must first love yourself. Amen to that! It doesn't matter one iota what you were or where you come from, what matters is who you are now!
As the header on my blog says, my philosophy is to "Learn from the past, live in the present, and believe in the future." I think all three of those things need to happen in order for us to truly be happy and at peace with what life brings us. If a person gets stuck on any one of those points... if they never learn from their mistakes and repeat them over and over, or if they are so chained to their past that they don't really live in the present, or even worse yet - if they have no belief in the future, no hope that life can be good, it will be extremely difficult for them to have a joyful, meaningful life. Balance is the key, discovering who we are NOW and what we believe NOW, based on what we've learned from the past, and then believing and working toward creating a future that will help us attain a feeling of self-worth and accomplishment.
While I didn't always make the best choices, and I have my regrets, most often I did the very best I could with what I knew and what I had at that time. When the end of my life comes, I hope I can say with confidence that I ended up being a pretty darn good person after all... that I loved and was loved and return. If I can, that will be enough!
What about you, do you have any regrets? Do you believe "No Regrets" is a good philosophy to live by? Is it possible to truly have no regrets at all?