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Dealing with Regrets

Updated on June 12, 2015

There is something mischievous about this boy's smile.

Yes in fact he did splash me all wet right as I took this picture. Do you think he regretted it?
Yes in fact he did splash me all wet right as I took this picture. Do you think he regretted it? | Source

Let us take the boogey man out of regrets.

(Author’s note: When writing this article I began with the notion that I had answers to this issue of regrets. While working through it I found that I had not answers, just a reasonable basis to further explore. It is the hope that this raises awareness in you that you may come to some satisfying conclusions of your own. Eric)

With all the mistakes made in the world we should be swimming in a sea of regrets. If regret is a natural result of taking wrong action then we should be sitting around moping in our own regrettable skin. Regrets should take up a great big part of any mature person’s life. But they do not. Ever wonder why that is?

It would be easy for me to write here that I confess to some regrets. People would surely empathize and relate to their own regrets. But I am not going to do that because it would be a lie. I have worked hard on the notion of regrets and have come to some conclusions that are simply unavoidable with rational thought.

Before we begin to go too far down this road let us stop and take stalk about apologies and amends. Sometimes we do things that cause negative and nasty results for others. For those we should do what we can to make things right with them. There are things that we even must do no matter what, that cause injury to others. We should feel sorry for those consequences and be human and show compassion and remorse. And we should darn well express that to people involved. “I am sorry I have to fire you but you are creating a dangerous work place for others”. Sometimes we must do things that cause harm, but that is life.

This is a family wagon in So. Vietnam

Don't panic they got their helmets on. I kind of regret letting my son ride off, the car is just no fun anymore.
Don't panic they got their helmets on. I kind of regret letting my son ride off, the car is just no fun anymore. | Source

If you are my age or older you knew this song was coming. If it is new to you listen up it is classic.

Some perspectives on regret.

So our first and very dramatic case is set forth above in a few short words. We all can envision a situation where someone must be fired from a job because of safety concerns. I will give you an easy one. The truck driver who after 2 attempts at rehab just cannot stay sober while driving. And yes to make matters worse he has two children to support and care for. We still have to fire him. Now do you regret firing him?

Before we get into an argument over semantics, let me make clear we are not talking about small regrets here. We are not referring to sending “regrets” in response to an RSVP. We are not talking about regretting not making it to a “sale” at the local store. We are talking about those regrets that you think about in your age while lying in bed trying to get to sleep. We are not talking about the mundane but rather the very serious.

Now it is only natural to regret having to fire our truck driver. If only there were something else we could do. But notice how we speak of regret right there. We regret having to have to do something. Before we actually do it, that regret is natural and healthy and helps motivate us to find alternative solutions. It is the after-the-fact regret that can last a lifetime that we must get rid of. Yes, get rid of it!

It is somehow understandable to say: “I only regret those things I did not do”. Indeed I used to say this to myself. In fact it helped a great deal in getting me motivated to do rather than to pass on opportunities to try new things.

The Internet or cyberspace is a great place for regrets. How many million times a day do people somehow post words that they immediately regret? How many good personal relationships in the real world have been damaged by regrettable postings online? It would be understandable to say that in general many people act regrettably when posting things on line.

Yes that is your foolish author on a recent hike in the Grand Canyon.

I think I would have regretted not taking this particular climb. (I know- nice hat)
I think I would have regretted not taking this particular climb. (I know- nice hat) | Source

Same old song, different singer, different version

Some thoughts of sobriety

It is helpful to break things down by looking closely at regrettable conduct. There normally are three parts to the activity that leads to regret. Of course the consequences. Then there is the actual action that was taken. But before both of those there was the negative thoughts that led to the action or the complete lack of thought that led to the action. The comment makes a lot of sense: “I regret that I did not think through what the consequences of my actions would be.” Or “I shouldn’t have done that while I was still upset.”

These common everyday uses of the term regret are helpful in our understanding. It would seem that we regret things that we do rather spontaneously. While seldom do we regret doing things after thought and evaluation. It is perhaps the insight we need in order to begin this day forward living without regrets.

Here is some more food for thought. Intoxication leads to actions that are regrettable. Most will rightly assume that I am speaking of a drunkenness. Indeed I am, but not just the kind that comes from imbibing in alcohol. Nope, I do not limit it to that concept. It is meant to include all forms of over indulgence. Especially those surrounding and involving our own ego. If you have never seen a person texting into a state of mind that is not sober, then you are not paying attention. They look and act like addicts going after their next fix. Sweating, tunnel vision, salivating and oblivious to life around them. Now in that state we can readily imagine that they may text something they regret.

Lest someone think I am an old fuddy duddy and opposed to spontaneous acts without a care in the world, I promise you I am not. I just love letting lose and not thinking. But I care enough about consequences that I have an on and off switch which generally prevents going too far and regretting it later. As much as I love jocularity and rambunctiousness, experience has taught me to keep a tether on sobriety. Perhaps age is a necessary ingredient to that recipe.

How about you?

Do you have regrets?

See results

Make your own conclusions.

With all that as a backdrop we can move on to the crux of what we are talking about here. Life happens and we all make mistakes. There are some that we may wish we could take back and have a do over. But we must remember that both our successes and our failures got us to where we are today. Here in lies the key. If you are a very unhappy person living a tormented life of suffering then you may regret what got you to that point. If you are a happy person living a joy filled life even in the face of hardship then you have nothing to regret. And the obvious is true, the difference in those two lives is attitude.

And here is a thought to consider: Perhaps it is in harboring regrets that we form our attitudes of the present and future. Could it be that the person who focuses negatively on the past is doomed to live and relive it? Could it be that those who are at peace with the past can live in peace now and in the future?

Well the bottom line is clear to me. I have made some whopping errors that resulted in terrible repercussions. I am not a millionaire. It could be said that I have some health issues. Angels do not break out in chorus every time I enter a room. The family that I am responsible for is far from perfect. We have struggles and problems. But all in all we are a happy fulfilled crew that contributes to society more than we take. In fact we are very loving and caring to each other and others. There is great joy in our togetherness and support of each other. And because that is how I view my existence I have no regrets. If anything contributed to us getting to this point I must be thankful for it. Every time I catch myself wishing that I had not taken such a difficult path, I just remember that I would not be where I am today had I not taken it.

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    • ChristinS profile image

      Christin Sander 22 months ago from Midwest

      Fantastic hub Eric, I think the "hard road" is what develops compassion and allows us to consider our actions and their consequences beforehand. Empathetic people tend to have reasons they develop that empathy. Grand canyon hike looks amazing too! Glad you won't regret not doing that :)

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 22 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Great food for thought, Eric. There was a time when regrets ruled my life. I have since made my amends and now try to live a life without regrets. All roads led me to this place, a place and time that I love....so the debts had to be paid in order for me to be happy.

    • Ericdierker profile image
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      Eric Dierker 22 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Hi Christin, thank you. You are so right. I am a slow learner and it took a whole bunch of hard roads. It is a nice way to live, caring about our impact on others. You just made a positive one on me.

    • Ericdierker profile image
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      Eric Dierker 22 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Bill, whatever it took to get you where you are today, it got you to being the swell friend and good man you are today and you have made my life richer.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 22 months ago from The Beautiful South

      I do have many regrets and I do my best not to think of them for what can we do? Like crying over spilt milk isn't it?

      Great thoughts! ^+

    • Lady_E profile image

      Elena 22 months ago from London, UK

      Thank you Eric, for an interesting and thought-provoking read.

      Also, well done on your Hubs. Over 60o!

      Have an awesome weekend. :-)

    • Ericdierker profile image
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      Eric Dierker 22 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Jackie, I have a little trouble seeing that in you. You pass on such non-judgmental love. Well know this, whatever got you to be the person you are today is good enough for me. You are a blessing.

    • Ericdierker profile image
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      Eric Dierker 22 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Elena, it is very nice to hear from you. Wow I really am at over 600. That shocks me. I promise that my little family and I will have an awesome weekend.

    • whonunuwho profile image

      whonunuwho 22 months ago from United States

      My friend...when i look back into the past, I remember those times I did foolishness and was indeed blessed that I came out ahead of the game. Yes, with age grows respect for danger and thank goodness we get this benefit of growing older and wiser. Nice work my friend. whonu

    • Ericdierker profile image
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      Eric Dierker 22 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Thank you Whonu for coming by and leaving such an insightful comment. When I look back I swear it was either angels or dumb luck that kept me alive much less thriving. My children let me know that it was all worthwhile.

    • truthfornow profile image

      truthfornow 22 months ago from New Orleans, LA

      Should haves really don't do anyone any good do they? I think it has been harder for me to forgive myself for any past mistakes than to forgive anyone else. You are correct that all things we have done have gotten us where we are today. And, there is always the hope for a brighter day if we don't like where we are at in life.

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 22 months ago from Home Sweet Home

      .i have few regrets but god helps me to overcome my problems

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 22 months ago from Queensland Australia

      There is a wonderful lesson here Eric. "Regrets, I've had a few, but then again..too few to mention." thanks for your wise advice once again.

    • Ericdierker profile image
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      Eric Dierker 22 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Marie, you are spot on. That forgiving ourselves is a tough one. We are blessed to have that hope when we need it.

    • Ericdierker profile image
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      Eric Dierker 22 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Peachy Thank you for coming by and reminding me that God has a hand in all of this. Sometimes it is best just to turn things over.

    • Ericdierker profile image
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      Eric Dierker 22 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      John, those words have always stuck in my mind. They remind me that not dwelling on the negative is the best way to move forward. Although if we were all sitting around the kitchen table talking smack I am sure my family would mention a few for fun. My regrets are always good for a few laughs.

    • Dana Tate profile image

      Dana Tate 22 months ago from LOS ANGELES

      You are so on point with this article Eric. Dwelling in the negative or living life full of regrets solves nothing. What's done is done. To me, the key is to see them as life's lessons , try to learn from them and move on. Dwelling on things we can't do anything about is a stumbling block. Of course, if you can then the logical thing to do would be to do it.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 22 months ago from southern USA

      Dear Eric,

      Another great read here from you! Thank you for sharing your insight into regrets. I love that photo of you ...you brave one you, but look at that great smile on your face which tells the true tale.

      All our bad choices in this life have led us to this very day of who we are at this moment, so I am grateful for them. A close family member who has been sober for 8 years now, told me once that he had no regrets whatsoever ... my initial reaction was (knowing what he put us through) WHAT??? Then he went on to explain just as you have here that if it were not for those past bad choices, he would not be the sober person he is today and great daddy that he is now. I went on to ask him, was it the thought of going to prison that made him want to seek help for alcoholism (which is what I had always thought), but to my surprise in his young wisdom, told me, no, that he never really feared going to jail but it was the thought of hurting someone he loved again that made him want to be sober.

      Wow, that really blew me away in a good way.

      Up ++++ tweeting, pinning, G+ and sharing

      God bless you and yours

      PS ... my grandchildren have that same look on their faces when they get me all wet playing ...LOL What joy!

    • Ericdierker profile image
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      Eric Dierker 22 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Hi Dana, thank you for coming by and commenting. You have a great attitude toward regrets. We can grow from something that would otherwise hold us back. That is a very good thing.

    • Ericdierker profile image
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      Eric Dierker 22 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Thank you Faith that is a really good story. Fear of having regrets is a great motivator. I hope your close family member is now thriving. I think when I realized that my actions had repercussions on others is when I began the journey of growing up.

      Isn't it fun to watch those thoughts of mischief float across a young one's face. Like you say "What joy!"

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 22 months ago from The Caribbean

      Eric, great message with a very encouraging conclusion. Yes, we all have regrets; and the older we get the more aware we become of mistakes that we cannot fix. I try to help myself by patting my back over some mistakes which I could have made but didn't. Anyway, I receive your encouraging presentation with thanks.

    • Ericdierker profile image
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      Eric Dierker 22 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Dora, we have a saying in hiking the back country; Phew, Oh Boy! I am glad I did not go that way! It just comes out when you look back and see a path you could have taken that would have been disastrous. Picking the right path is a reward in and of itself.

      Thank you for lending your thoughts to this hub.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 22 months ago from sunny Florida

      There was a time in my life when I did regret things...was looking back and trying to second guess the past, a decision made that I wish had gone another way.

      But major things happened in our family and we have no time for regrets.

      I enjoy reading your writings Eric because they you make sense and I feel as though you are speaking just to me.

      Angels are on the way to you this evening ps Voted up ++++ shared g+ tweeted

    • Ericdierker profile image
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      Eric Dierker 22 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Patricia there was a time when due to an illness I was kind of facing death in the face. It gave me pause to reflect on my life. My first reaction was "what a mess, this world will be better off without me". Filled with regrets. It took a short look at just one of my children to change that immediately. What if I had done everything just right with a gal I dated before meeting their mother? Now that I would regret! I think it was Kipling that wrote: If we can face travesty and triumph and treat those two impostors just the same....

      May just one of our family's heartfelt prayers reach you tonight.

    • Harishprasad profile image

      Harish Mamgain 22 months ago from India

      Yes, Eric. Regrets reflect an integral aspect of our life. I regretted some of my reckless actions and changed myself. I regretted my bad behavior toward my family members, relations, colleagues and other guys and learned the right conduct. This kind of regretting lightens the mind and instils peace into it. But, regretting constantly for not becoming this or that , or for not acquiring this or that creates a real noise in our mind. You are right, we must move on and lead a regret free life. This hub is a great reminder and life lesson. Thank you again for brightening our vision.

    • Ericdierker profile image
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      Eric Dierker 22 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Harish, I was just contemplating a what if. What if learning how to live in a way that would lesson any cause for regret was as easy as learning not to touch fire? It would seem the lesson may be less valuable. I must be accepting of the fact that that which I could regret is the experience I need in order to grow. The hope is to find joy in the journey of learning.

      Thank you for coming by and brightening my day with your thoughtful and thought provoking comment.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 21 months ago from SW England

      I like the point that past alternatives we might yearn for mean that we wouldn't be in the same here and now. Yes, I have regrets but I've learnt to file them away, learn from them and not dwell upon them any more. They have to seen as lessons to a better me.

      Certainly food for thought here, which is what you always provide, Eric!

      Measured words of wisdom, as ever.

      Ann

    • Ericdierker profile image
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      Eric Dierker 21 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Thank you Ann. That wonderful balance of "getting over it" and "learning from it" is a sweet spot that deserves our striving. Certainly the study of our own personal history should contain both an appreciation for mistakes and an appreciation for results. Hoping you have a regretless day.

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