During my senior year in college, I sat in a conference room with five psychology professors. I was there to receive a special thank you for providing music at a conference the department had just hosted.
As I held a half-dozen roses, I remember wanting to shrink into my seat while the professors complimented my piano playing, along with my abilities as a psychology student. I felt so self-conscious. The longer they spoke, the lower I wanted to sink. The nicer they were, the more I wanted to disappear.
My response was to mutter the obligatory “thank you” as they spoke.
When they were done, one of them tried to engage me in conversation. I had already thanked the professors for the roses and their kind words, so when it came time to respond to the professor’s effort at conversation, all I could say was … wait for it, wait for it … “Can I go now?”
Can I go now?! I said that?!
Yes, I said that … and I immediately regretted it.
Clearly, I proved I didn’t need to study psychology or counseling. I needed psychological counseling! I was just so self-conscious that I didn’t handle that setting with maturity. And, today, decades later, I still remember it, and I regret it.
Maybe you have your own “wish I had” and “I shouldn’t have” list. You may look back in the rear-view mirror of your life and see that landfill of “coulda” and “shoulda” and wish it would just go away. Or, at least hope you could just get far enough away from your regrets that you can’t see them in your mind’s eye anymore.
But, since you often can’t forget what you regret, and you certainly can’t change the past, what can you do?
You can learn to live with less regret! Here are three ways to get free from the guilt that chains you to regret and two questions to avoid it in the future.
3 ways to live with less regret
- Reframe. You can’t change the past, but you can change your perspective. You can change how you respond to what you regret. If you allow regret to make you feel bad about yourself, it won’t improve your life. But, if you choose to learn from the past and make changes because of what you learn, then you won’t live in regret. You will move from being regretful about your past to becoming grateful for it.
- Rethink. Most regret enters in when you act or react quickly without thinking thoroughly. So, when you find yourself in a stressful situation, you can ask yourself these two questions:Am I responding to the immediate or the ultimate? In other words, begin with the end in mind. Ask God for the spiritual vision to see yourself and see beyond the immediate pressure, insecurity, emotion, or stress you’re dealing with, so you can react based on what matters most. If you don’t think about it, you may react to the immediacy of a situation and, consequently, overreact to the people.Am I absorbing or observing? Sometimes, we get so wrapped up in situations that we take in all the emotion and stress. And, most often, it isn’t our stress and emotion to take on or take in. When we observe, we can better objectively coach and assist. When we absorb the situation, we become as emotional as the one we’re trying to help.
- Redeem. Give your past regret to God and ask Him to make it profitable to you, grow you, teach you, and make you wiser. In Joel 2:25, God says, “I will restore the years the locusts have eaten.” Since Joel was talking about the damage done in the past, he promised two things: God will make us safe from past damage, and He will make it somehow complete. The idea that God completes our past helps me understand Romans 8:28 even better. It says God makes all things work for the good of those who love Him, right? So, you tell your regret that it is not the boss of you. God will help you make “peace” with your regret.
No matter what regret you face today, you can learn to live with less of it through Christ who gives you strength.
This post originally appeared on JenniferRothschild.com and was republished with permission.
Jennifer Rothschild has written 14 books, including the bestseller Lessons I Learned in the Dark and Me, Myself, and Lies. She’s been featured on Good Morning America and Dr. Phil and is the founder of Fresh Grounded Faith events. Jennifer became blind at age 15 and now helps others live beyond limits.