Do You Believe In Regret?
There was a time when I didn’t believe in regret, almost adamantly so. Regret Nothing! Sure, there were things I felt bad about or felt sorry for. But for the most part, I felt like our experiences make us who we are; that’s how we learn and grow. If any event were to be erased, then who knows how it might alter my life, my personality, my paradigm.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that there are things I truly wish I hadn’t done. Specifically, there are things I am ashamed of, things I certainly wouldn’t write about here. I think that amounts to regret.
I still cannot regret any parts of my life in big picture terms. To go back and take even one step in a different direction could alter lives well beyond my own. (I saw Back to the Future!)
Speaking of the future… Is it ever too late to make changes? Is it ever too late to do something different? To make better decisions?
I don’t think so. It ain’t over till it’s over.
Here is what some other people said:
Gloria: No. I don’t really regret anything that’s happened in my life. It taught me a lesson. I’m thankful for whatever I get in my life, good or bad. It makes you a stronger person.
Julie: Yes. I do believe in regret, but I also chalk it up to a learning experience. I regret marrying my first husband, but I learned a lot from it, and I have four beautiful children. It builds character and helps you grow and develop. But are there things I would do differently? Yes.
Peyton: Yeah…punching a kid in the face for throwing two worms at Megan…because I don’t like it, I don’t like fighting very much. I also have another thing that I regret: we were playing hide-n-go-seek, me and Logan and Megan and her friend, and they cheated. And I got really mad (cause I get mad a lot) and I ran at her and I pushed her into a bush that was, like, five feet behind her.
—Michelle: Hmm…do you have anger-management issues?
Peyton: I do.
—Logan: No, you don’t.
Michelle: What do you do to control your anger?
—Peyton: I do not retaliate. *two beats* …to Logan.
*insert Auntie laughter here, because it is bull*
Logan: Everything happens the way it’s going to happen. It’s not good or bad, it’s just what you make of it.
AJ: No. As far as regretting something, I take everything as a learning lesson. Regret doesn’t get you anywhere.
Sharon: Yeah I believe in regret. Do I want to elaborate on it? No.
Laura: No, not really. I mean, anything that you do that you regret, it’s a lesson that you obviously had to learn. And you can take that rather than just regretting it.
Lynn: Yes. I think I believe more in regrets when family members stop being family, stop talking to one another over petty things. Because when that person leaves the earth, you can’t get it back and it lives with you forever.
a brief conversation
Donna: Yeah, I believe in regret. But now you want to know why. Regret is like a form of remorse, too. Remorse of not trying something.
—Michelle: Things you wish you had done?
Donna: Things you wish you would have done. Should have done.
—Michelle: You’re actually the first person who’s gone in that direction: things I wish I had done, but I didn’t do.
Donna: I don’t have a lot of regrets of things that I’ve done, but maybe remorse for things that I have not done.
—Abena: I was going to say I do believe in regret, but I was going to go in that way you were saying. Things that I’ve done that I shouldn’t have done, I regret maybe more than things that I haven’t done.
Donna: …or tried, or…letting fear hold me back. That kind of thing.
—Abena: Things that I have not yet done, that maybe I should have done – maybe I feel that there’s still more time.
Michelle: That’s true, but some things you lose that opportunity if you don’t…
—Abena: …that’s true…
Donna: …take that chance.
—Michelle: Yeah, even with other people, telling them you’re sorry or…if they needed you and you weren’t there for them…you can’t get that back again.
Donna: Oh, yeah.
—Abena: That’s a… it’s a deep question.
Michelle: It is.
This is what I so love about the Queries and the conversations they initiate.
I did not change what I originally wrote at the top of the page, because it illustrates how, once formed, I tend to cling to my opinions. To summarize: the young adult version of myself did not believe in regrets; as I got older, I did better understand the nature of and ultimately have regrets; but in the long run I don’t believe in regret. So what does that add up to? I have regrets, but not really?
The truth is there are things I would not do again if I had a chance to live my life over. For the reasons I stated, I certainly wouldn’t change major life decisions. But there are smaller, personal things that I would do differently, things that have little bearing on anything other than my opinion of myself.
What this last conversation really brought to the forefront for me, is all of the things I did not do. There are some big picture things, things I didn’t do with my life. But more importantly, there are a thousand little things that I didn’t do: phone calls, thank you notes, visits, being there – the many small ways in which I could have but did not reach out to another person. For example, I will never forgive myself for not going to a certain funeral. A lack of comfort on my part should not have been enough to keep me away, especially when my mere presence would have been enough of a show of support. It’s not like I had to give a speech; I just had to show up.
These are not life altering, world moving things I’m talking about. But they are.
The most terrible thing about regret is that it rarely makes a difference. It can be a wasted emotion. Because having regret does not, in and of itself, create changes within us; regret is just the thing that makes us aware. And I can look at my past and say that I would do these little things differently, but would I? Funny, I’m not doing anything differently now. I’m finding that my regrets are as much centered on who I am as they are on my actions; they are an expression of sorrow for what I feel is lacking inside me. I do believe it’s never too late to change. But will I?
All to often, we regret. That’s it – that’ s where it stops. And that is something to regret.
Surprising Death and Final Regrets by Mind Margins
The Life of Regret. (crittyjoy.com)
The Power of Regrets (learningmaster.wordpress.com)