Regret woke me up the other night. 2:54am to be exact. Out of nowhere it shook me like there was an emergency. There was no mistaking who it was. Regret is easily recognized. All at once, I was on an unwanted rewind of years past; situations, conversations, poor choices and painful emotions. For 20 minutes or so, I entertained regret. I watched the reruns as they mercilessly tore the band-aid off old wounds I thought long healed.
How do people do it? My regrets are a spit in the ocean compared to others. What about those who’ve made choices that changed lives, caused real harm or even taken life? The next day, I began reading whatever I could find about regret. And I was quickly frustrated by a lack of clear answers. All I found was a series of feel-good quotes and amateur therapy-speak advising people to look forward and not behind. Not helpful. After several days of thinking about it, I have come to some conclusions of my own.
First, it’s not so much regret that agonize us, but rather the lies that encircle it. Regret may wake us up late at night, but it’s lies wrapped in beautiful disguise that pose the greatest threat. Lies tell us the forks in our roads gave us one chance and we blew it. Lies tell us we should have picked door number three because it contained more fabulous prizes than the one we chose. Lies convince us to mourn our zigs and fantasize about the zags. And we readily listen.
I wish I could tell you there is an answer. I wish I could show you a way to rip out the pages that contain regret so that it’s no longer a part of your story. The truth is, regret is the ghost that won’t totally leave you. And if you let it, it will haunt you.
Here’s what I do know: the best way to counter a lie is by living the truth. I don’t mind entertaining regret for a time, but I will now recognize the lies that come with it. I will understand what their mission is and I will reject their soft whispers. I will push back with what I know to be true today. Regret may be a given, but it doesn’t mean I have to give in.
It is not easy to find peace on the road that has led you to where you are. Like my late night wake up call, there will be setbacks. But when I do look forward, here is what I see: one day there will be no regret. It will be tossed into a massive sea of tears. And there, along with hate, fear and brokenness, regret will barely stay afloat like a damaged raft drifting in the wind to nowhere.
And today, that looks pretty good.