After months of writing and talking about regret, a few people have told me that they’ve thoughts about it, and they really don’t have any regrets.
Ninety-nine out of a hundred conversations I’ve had with others about regret include the other person sharing a few headlines of their own if onlys. I am always ready to reference my own regrets in those discussions as well.
The “no regrets” crew has two distinct categories:
(1) People who have sought to live wisely, and have made some poor choices because they’re human beings. These people have been intentional about pursuing practical wisdom by owning those choices and processing them before God as they’ve journeyed with him.
(2) People who are living disconnected from their regrets. The disconnect can take on a lot of different looks ranging from denial, sometimes taking the form of super-spiritual talk and activity (“No need to revisit the past. It’s all ‘under the blood’.”) to escapism via self-destructive activity (self-medication to numb their pain).
Figuring out which kind of “no regret” is in operation is usually fairly obvious. When someone is sharing a story of pain, hurt or regret, and their conversation partner responds with some variation of “Why can’t you just move past this?”, they are proving their membership in category #2.
You don’t need to have gone through a lifetime of bad choices to become an empathetic person. Those who seek to understand by listening well, by seeking to honor with humility and respect the feelings of another, by being present with someone else’s pain are either those who have a short list of regrets because they’ve processed them in a healthy way in the presence of God as they’ve walked through life, or they’re people who are sensitized to the hurt of others because they’ve recognized their own brokenness. This lack of empathy can show up in all sorts of ways. A “get over it” reaction to a friend’s woe, or a patronizing, dismissive response to stories of institutionalized racism (this excellent blog post highlights what this sort of approach looks like) both showcase the way in which a disconnect from our own regrets desensitizes us to ourselves and others.
God can use the discomfort of our regrets to reunite the pieces of our self-protective, divided hearts by:
- Prodding us toward recognition of how our poor choices have derailed us
- Helping us to identify where we’ve disconnected from him and/or others
- Shining his light on things we’ve attempted to stash in the darkness
- Causing us to make important changes
- Exposing the false compartments we’ve created in our hearts
- Restoring a whole-hearted relationship with him
Our compassionate, uncreated God sent his Son to redeem his beloved, broken creation. The infinite willingly became the begotten. It was the ultimate act of compassion, enacted hesed. His compassion is neither patronizing nor dismissive. His compassion includes empathy, but extends as far as the east is from the west to bring transformation, healing and re-creation out of his perfect, fiery love for each one of us.
The maturity that comes from facing our regrets – either in real time a la #1, above, or in willing reflection in the company of the Holy Spirit – includes a growth in godly wisdom and also includes a growth in empathy. We will be able to “rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15), a perfect mirrored echo of God’s compassion toward us.
Have you ever known someone who insists they don’t have any regrets? How did this person respond to the hurts and struggles of others?
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It was a privilege to be a guest on Moody Radio Network’s Midday Connection for four weeks during September, talking about some of the themes in my book. If you didn’t have an opportunity to tune in, you can listen online or podcast it:
And even if you think you don’t have any regrets, I bet you might know someone who does. If Only: Letting Go Of Regret is a great read for both of you. Click here to order.