01 February 2016

                Regret [ri-gret]
                v. to feel sorrow or remorse for (an act, fault, disappointment, etc.)
                n. a sense of loss or disappointment

The phrase ‘no regrets’ has been known to escape my lips, and I was talking recently with a friend about regrets and her desire to live with no regrets…  And you know what? The more I think about it, the more I realize that actually, regrets aren’t a bad thing.  To feel sorrow or remorse for something? That is actually what makes you change behavior in the future.  And that is a good thing.

I do have regrets.

One time I was sixteen and driving my siblings and myself to school.  We passed an elderly woman with curly white hair and a blue coat who had fallen, or tripped, or been pushed, or for some reason or another was on her hands and knees on the side of the road.  I didn’t actually notice her until we had passed, and then did a double take in my rear-view mirror.  I made a split-second decision.  I didn’t stop. I remember that moment so clearly, that I was faced with the choice to stop and turn around and help her, or keep on as if I didn’t notice.  I kept on, rationalizing the decision with not wanting to be late for school or miss out on a good parking space or some other equally lame, but at the time seemingly important, reason. 

I remember the moment as if it were yesterday and I regret that I didn’t stop. She was someone’s grandma and I would hope to heaven and back if my grandma was on her hands and knees in the street someone would help.   I still think about that woman and pray for her and hope to heaven that someone stopped.

Now, the difference between regret and guilt and shame are important.  Regret means I feel remorse about what happened.  And I know in the future I would handle the situation entirely differently.  Guilt isn’t necessarily bad either – guilt is aligned with regret, in that guilt is the fact that there was something I should have done but chose not to – I am guilty of ignoring the issue. And I feel remorse (regret) about it. 

Shame is an entirely different emotion – shame is not saying what I did was bad it is saying I was bad.  Shame is the darkness that threatens to swallow me as I think of that story (or any story) and it’s whispered phrases like what a horrible person, how could you do that, unfeeling monster, you are a despicable excuse for a human being.

Now that might sound a bit dramatic for this particular example, but I have many, many more.  So do you.  I lied to a friend.  It was a poor choice and I regret making that decision.  And the multitudes of similar decisions afterward.  I told a friend someone else’s secret and it got back to her.  It was devastating.   I hit ‘reply all’ with a firey response that was meant to go to one person only.  I’ve made millions of mistakes; some intentional, some unintentional. 

The mistakes I don’t regret were choices that maybe didn’t pan out the way I hoped but I still believe were the right choice and I would do it again if I was faced with a similar situation. 

The mistakes I regret are the ones that have changed me. 

Changed me for the good.  Changed me to become a woman who would stop for a grandma on the street and a woman who would speak truth even when it is difficult and a woman who would hold other’s treasured stories close to her heart and a woman who tries really really hard to never to blindly react or reply out of emotion.

So the people who say they actually have no regrets? My guess is they don’t know the actual definition of regret. Because I think we all, if we are on the path of becoming, should actually regret the times when we should have been kind and we weren’t, that makes us the kinder person we are today.  Or patient.  Or gentle.  Or loving.

SO I guess all of that to say, to live without regret is certainly a dream; one that I don’t think is actually possible.  I would love to live the rest of my days never regretting one decision or one word or one action.  But realistically speaking?  Regret is a daily occurrence.  I think it’s synonymous with being an alive, feeling human being. Those that don’t feel regret are probably not people I would want to spend a whole lot of time around.   I want to embrace that part of my story as the part that leads to the most breakthrough, the most becoming, the most freedom. 

Sometimes the most uncomfortable learning is the most powerful. ~Brene Brown

Agree? Disagree? Would love to hear from you.  Engaging in conversation about things that actually matter is one of the things I love most in the world.  Feel free to email me or comment on this blog.  All comments moderated before posting.  

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