I just finished this book called The Midnight Library. It’s a secular fiction book about the space between life and death. It’s a very intriguing concept and I loved it. But I digress. What prompted me into the topic of regret, or regerts as the case may be for that one unfortunate tattoo, is that this book had an interesting take on them.
The concept was, parallel universes in which you could live an infinite number of lives with an infinite number of outcomes. Which left very little space for regret. And that got me thinking, what is the purpose of regret, really?
Regret is nothing more than a romanticized fantasy of what could have been. Right? I wish I hadn’t broken up with him. We’d be so happy together, I just know it. Or I wish I’d taken that job opportunity. It was so perfect. Or I wish I hadn’t been so harsh. They didn’t deserve that. Or I wish I’d jumped at the chance to travel before we had kids. We’d have made the best memories. Or I wish we’d fostered before we got too old. What an impact we could’ve made. On and on and on. The list of regrets could make a mighty tome indeed. But to what end?
Do we ever act on these regrets? Make a change? Sometimes. But more often than not, our biggest regrets just fester. They make us sad. And make us think this parallel version of us would have a more glorious life. But is that really the case?
Follow one of your regrets to the end. I wish I’d taken that job opportunity. How do you picture it? Are you happy? Are there absolutely no problems in your life at all because of this amazing job? Are you gone a lot because it’s demanding? Or are you home more so you have time with your family, but you have less money? Do you get along with everyone you work with? Are you good at it right off the bat? There are literally no struggles at all? Do you see how unrealistic this is?
No job is perfect. Even mine. I love writing. It’s been my passion since third grade. Editing on the other hand. My mom likes to remind me that I threw my papers away rather than edit them when I was a kid. I feel this in a big way, 9-year-old me. Editing is part of the process. It’s something I do because I love the rest. My job is not a fantasy. It has ups and downs. Failures – so many failures – and successes. It’s messy, and wonderful, and a heck of a lot of hard work.
I think it’s worth it, which is why it isn’t on my regrets. I definitely have things about it I wish I’d done differently. Things I’ve learned along the way. But now I’m better equipped to do this job.
Which brings me back to my question. What is the purpose of regret? Personally, I think it’s another weapon of the enemy. Because with regret, comes guilt. And with guilt, comes sadness. And with sadness, comes that dungeon of sadness. Remember that Rose is Rose comic? Dating myself here, I know. But Rose builds an emotional dungeon that she almost takes shelter in. Hers is built by resentment, but I think it works for depression too. Depression is isolating. It’s something we work at, brick by brick until we feel like we can’t overcome it. We can’t get out.
Regret adds bricks to our dungeon, making it impossible to see the reality of what our choices would have been. He isn’t perfect. Neither is that job. Or that golden opportunity. Every choice has a consequence. Even the ones that look “perfect.” And regret assumes they don’t, which just isn’t rational.
In Phillipians 4:8 we are told to think about “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.” (NIV) Does regret match any of these definitions? Do I really need to answer this?
Because regret is so far from the things Paul is telling us to think about, I have to believe it’s from the enemy. At best, it’s a distraction. It keeps us inward focused, which is the opposite of what we should be in order to be happy. Listen, my mind is a chaotic place. I don’t like to be there for too long. Or I start adding bricks to the dungeon, ya know? But if I keep my thoughts on other people, on Jesus, heck, even on this blog and the slight panic of what I’m going to write for next week ::awkward laugh::. What? That never happens. I have it all together. ::second awkward laugh:: ANYWAY, if I keep my thoughts outside myself, it’s easier to be thankful. And where there is gratitude, there is no room for regret.
Consider this: Your life without regret. How does that feel? Impossible? Freeing? Scary? Happy? I’m going to say something shocking right now. Get ready. Here it comes. There is literally no reason you can’t have a life without regret. Peace is yours for the taking. Life isn’t a solo sprint after all. It’s team race, and Jesus is running it with you. You literally can’t lose. All you have to do is let go of your regret, and tag Him in.
If you see regret for what it is, a tool of the enemy to get your eyes off Jesus, it might just be easier to let go. Try it, and see what you think? What have you got to lose? (Um, besides this immense weight on your shoulders? Sorry, I’ll leave you to it now. Just try it. Hey Mikey, you might like it.)
**As an aside: I understand that for some people, regret may be a tool of self-punishment. When you believe you don’t deserve happiness, it’s much easier to dwell in regret. For this kind of abusive mentality, I can only urge you seek far more educated and qualified help than this blog. Because you do deserve happiness. Joy is yours for the taking. But no one can take those bricks off the dungeon for you. So, get help. Please.