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Regret Going from a Bitter Heart to a Better Soul
That Old Bitter Feeling We all Know too Well
How many times have we heard ourselves or others say the words “should have, could have, or would have” or “I wish I hadn’t said that” then there’s the more contemporary phrase “if I could turn back time” The truth is you can not turn back time. You must live with the results of your past choices.
Regret, which also known as the bitter sting of the morning after or mankind’s most common after thought is also mankind’s most common experience. Regret, an experience shared by all mankind, touches all of us in one form or another. We all have to live with it sooner or later and we must all learn to master it or we risk letting it eat us up alive.
Since the beginning of time, we see regret showing its ugly head. In the Garden of Eden, soon after our first ancestors, Adam and Eve bit into the forbidden fruit they expressed this all encompassing emotion in the following scene: Genesis 3: 10-12 “10 And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. 11 And He said, who told thee that thou were naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, where of I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? 12 And the man said, the woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.”
In this scene we see Adam having second thoughts as to God’s great gift to him and his chosen companion, instead of a comfort she suddenly became the reason why he made the wrong choice. It must have been heart breaking for Eve to have to listen to her husband’s words; words that show no willingness take responsibility for his own action, but to put her in the line of fire instead. Regret had turned her precious Adam from her protector and poet, to a coward and a blamer.
Then we have another similar scene that goes as follows: Genesis3: 13“And Jehovah God said unto the woman, what is this thou hast done? And the woman said, the serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.” Suddenly Eve, who thought she could be as wise as God by eating the forbidden fruit has to admit that she, has been tricked by a snake. I’m pretty sure that the bitter sting of regret made her feel pretty foolish and wishing she would have trusted God's commandment.
There you have it, an experience that has been a part of human existence since day one. How many things does each of us regret? Such things as that career we should have considered studying, that man or woman we should have considered having had a relationship with, or on the other hand, that man or woman we wish had never met. Events in our lives, that we play over and over again in our heads and wonder what if we had done a single thing differently. Then there are those wasted opportunities that we wish would have taken, people we wish we would have treated differently, or those things we wish had or hadn’t said, the list goes on and on. Regret it is everywhere you don’t want to be.
Ways to Avoid It’s Pitfalls and Rise Above Regret
The even more perplexing question is how do we avoid this bitter sting, without wishing for a time machine? Are we doomed to repeat the same mistakes or is there hope for at least some of us? I have good news there is some hope. Those who know how to follow good advice and heed warnings are less likely to experience regret than those who foolishly rush in where angles dare not tread. It all goes back to knowing how to listen and knowing who to obey. Discernment and self control are definitely needed if one is to lessen their chance of experiencing regret.
We must first find a reliable source of advice. For me the greatest source of advice is the Bible and good place to begin is the book of Proverbs. Right at the beginning of Proverbs it says the following: Proverbs 1:1-5 “1The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel: 2 To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight,
3 to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity;
4 to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth—
5 Let the wise hear and increase in learning and the one who understands obtain guidance,”
If one has the right attitude wisdom and good advice is obtainable, for wisdom is available for all. Jesus said “Seek and you shall find, ask and it will be given to you’ If you seek for the right answers, you will find them and if you ask God in prayer to help you, He will be more than gracious to give you the help and wisdom that you seek. After you pray it is essential that you read and meditate on God’s word. It is important to yield to its warnings and teachings, for it says in Proverbs1: 20- 31 “Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice;
21at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:
22"How long, simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge?
23 If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you.
24 Because I have called and you refused to listen, have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded,
25 because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof,
26 I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when terror strikes you,
27 when terror strikes you like a storm and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you.
28 Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but will not find me.
29 Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD,
30 would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof,
31 therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices.”
Wisdom is there waiting and comes to us in many forms, it may have come in the form of a parent’s advice that we thought “old fashioned”, or that best friend who told you to turn from your present course of action, or that verse you read in Bible that rebuked you and made you realize that you needed to change or the result will be nothing more and nothing less than the bitter sting of regret.
The book of Proverbs gives advice in various areas of life. It gives advice on sexual purity, temperance by avoiding such excesses as drinking, gluttony and laziness. It also gives excellent advice on what to say and how to keep your mouth from destroying you. One can find a treasure house of wisdom in this book alone, let alone the rest of scripture. If you are looking for answers, yes the Bible has answers.
Then there are those that try to excuse themselves by saying “I know better, but I just can’t help myself” In the book of James it says the following: James 1:14-15 “14But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” Yes we each have an area of weakness but that does not change that we are accountable for our actions and the mistakes we make will affect us and those around us, sometimes with overwhelming and even disastrous results.
It also says in scripture in 1Corinthian10:13“13No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” Therefore we are without excuse because God is well aware of our weaknesses and He is faithful in helping us overcome these weaknesses, if we are willing to obey Him. Everyone is tempted, but it is always a choice.
Everything has a Purpose and So does Regret
Regret also serves a purpose, since it is the first step toward repentance. When we regret our actions it means that we are in agreement with God that our actions were wrong and that we need to change. Regret is not our enemy, but rather our conscience letting us knows that we need a makeover.
This is a good time to take action towards the healing of those around you and your own healing. You can start by saying that long overdue I'm sorry to your children whom you may have hurt or your spouse or ex that did not deserve the pain your actions have inflicted on them. It is also a good time to salvage what you can of your life as well as your relationships. It can be the beginning of something positive rather than a destructive all consuming feeling. So next time you begin to feel regret instead of wallowing in self pity you need to ask yourself what can you do to make things right again. Regret, best friend or worse enemy it is up to you.