Moving Past Regret: How to Fix a Painful Past

Moving Past Regret: How to Fix a Painful Past May 3, 2021

Retrospect is a human luxury. It’s great to remember the good, the joyous journey of the past. But it also serves as a painful, backwards glance at what-could-have-been, should-have-been.

When I look back at some of the decisions I’ve made regarding relationships, actions, and spoken words, I have to wonder, “What was I thinking?” I admit there are times when I wonder what my life would have been like without those stupid, silly, and often sinful decisions.

The rear-view mirror provides a different perspective if slightly skewed view of the past. My life is replete with these memories.

And it isn’t just the big things – the explosive decisions that can ruin a man or a woman. It’s the everyday lazy actions, the misplaced word, the shaded truth.

The problem is that you can never go back and undo the past. You can’t jump in the DeLorean and go back in time to change.

Regret is one of life’s most painful lessons. And without good perspective, that regret leads to shame.

Photo by Karl Fredrickson on Unsplash
Photo by Karl Fredrickson on Unsplash

All I have is grace

The world tells us that the good decisions eventually outweigh the bad, that in the end, as long as you are a “good person” that it all works out. The problem is that a single bad decision can ruin a lifetime of good decisions. I’ve done that in marriage, at work, and with friends.

There are natural consequences to our actions. I’m living with some of those right now. I have strained relationships at work. There are acquaintances who are no longer friends. Mostly, I live with the stern finger-pointing to my heart, the accusations still fresh, raw.  I often lie awake at night, unable to stop the ship that has sailed.

But consequences are far different from karma, the belief that the good will reward the good and the bad will haunt the bad.

I have to keep reminding myself, “Karma is a lie. In God’s world, grace rules.”

Finding our way back home

In the book of Samuel, a widow approached the king, looking for justice for her family. And in her simplicity, she uttered these words. “But God does not just sweep life away; instead, he devises ways to bring us back when we have been separated from him.” 2 Samuel 14.14.

As His children, we need to allow Father God to delight us with His grace. Forgiving ourselves without regressing to shame isn’t easy, especially when the tape keeps playing in the memory bank. But I no longer have to wonder, “What was I thinking” because He is continually finding ways to bring us home. We don’t have to piece it all together.

An even more powerful force is when we display that same grace to a world around us – friends, family and coworkers who don’t have the same sense of perspective. To look at someone who has failed, hold out a hand and lift them up is an act that change a life – maybe change a world.

Yesterday is suddenly no longer anchor that weighs us down. We have today — and tomorrow, too.

The song that helped “The Greatest Showman” come to the big screen

I heard a story in church about the song that was sung to help film executives “sign off” on the film, “The Greatest Showman.”

It’s a passionate presentation by someone who doesn’t seem to be faking. When she pushes away the microphone, our pastor said that was the moment when shame was defeated. “This is me” isn’t a declaration of doing anything, saying anything. It’s a declaration that our past will not dictate our future nor will it determine our present.

“All things are made new.”

There isn’t perfect theology here, but this is a gospel message. Shame no More


“This Is Me”

I’m not a stranger to the dark Hide away, they say

‘Cause we don’t want your broken parts

I’ve learned to be ashamed of all my scars

Run away, they say

No one will love you as you are

But I won’t let them break me down to dust

I know that there’s a place for us

For we are glorious

When the sharpest words wanna cut me down

I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out

I am brave, I am bruised

I am who I’m meant to be, this is me

Look out ’cause here I come

And I’m marching on to the beat

I drum I’m not scared to be seen

I make no apologies, this is me

Another round of bullets hits my skin

Well, fire away ’cause today, I won’t let the shame sink in

We are bursting through the barricades

And reaching for the sun (we are warriors)

Yeah, that’s what we’ve become

Won’t let them break me down to dust

I know that there’s a place for us

For we are glorious

out (…this is me)

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