Dealing with Regrets
There is something mischievous about this boy's smile.
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
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.
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?
Probably a good read
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.