I’ve always had a strong reaction to the word “regret”. Back in college, I had a boyfriend who frequently told me that he had zero regrets, and how proud he was of this accomplishment. But every time he announced this (it was regularly worked into conversations, oddly enough) I always felt a pang of sadness for him. Not awe, like I’m sure he was expecting. If he didn’t have any regrets, how could he avoid repeating the same mistakes in the future? Has he learned nothing??
What is this obsession our culture has with living with no regrets? Does that seem silly to anyone but me? There absolutely SHOULD be things you regret. I don’t think the issue is not “having” regrets. That seems inevitable. There will always be circumstances that we will look back upon, and with clearer vision know that had we made a better choice, our lives in the present might be just that much better. And who doesn’t want a better life, in any aspect? So the idea isn’t to not have regrets. The idea is to let the regrets be OKAY. To live peacefully with them. To accept our regrets and love ourselves DESPITE the bad choices we have made. To love and accept our bad choices as much as the good ones. To love and accept who we WERE, and now, who we are.
But to resist regret itself?
A healthy sense of regret means we recognize that we could have made better choices. And that is imperative for the future because if we don’t learn from our mistakes, then what the hell is the point?
I have many regrets. When I look back on decisions I made that were poor at the time, I know that if faced with a similar situation, I would make better ones today with the information I now have. That’s regret. I don’t lose sleep over them. I don’t castigate myself for choosing A over B. My regrets are very valuable learning tools, and keep me from repeating the same mistake over and over again.
I found this TED video on regret a couple years ago that I think is absolutely SPOT ON in conveying what I’m trying to say-
My favorite part of the video:
“The point is to not hate ourselves for having regrets…we need to learn to love the flawed, imperfect things that we create, and to forgive ourselves for creating them. Regret doesn’t remind us that we did badly. It reminds us that we know we can do better.”