Dealing With Regret
Whenever a discussion comes up on whether or not I believe in evolution in regards to human beings, the first thing that comes to mind is regret. Animals don’t regret. Human beings do. We spend our lives living in regret for things said or done, things left unsaid or undone, roads taken, roads not taken, choices made, choices avoided, friendships lost, relationships broken, opportunities lost. It is a trait that makes us distinctly, uniquely human.
However, regret is not a condition with which humanity has to live. We can deal with it and move on; and therein lies the problem: we don’t deal with it.
People have an instinctive ability to avoid dealing with regret. We choose not to face up to our choices by blaming society, or others, or our circumstances. We choose to avoid the consequences of those choices by rationalizing our attitudes or actions. We choose to bury the past and hope, with time, those choice will be forgotten (and/or forgiven) and we can move on with our lives.
Unfortunately, regret that is not dealt with transforms into guilt. The results of guilt are devastating and we see those results in the forms of broken families, violence, physical and mental abuse, drunkenness, and drug addition. The only way to break the cycle is to confront regret head on. To see our actions and attitudes for what they are, accept responsibility, ask forgiveness, and make restitution.
It is a terrifying thing to see ourselves as others see us, whether for good or evil. When someone sees us in a positive light, often our own inadequacies keep us from accepting the accolades. When others see the ugly side of our natures, it conflicts with our self perception of being “good” and we run screaming from the truth.
People are a mixture of good and bad actions, attitudes, words, choices, and paths taken. A good balance acknowledges the times we are wrong and embraces the things that make us pleasant to be around. When we make wrong choices or bad decisions, the only thing to do is face it head on. Accept responsibility, no matter how unpleasant the truth, and do what must be done to right the wrong. Sometimes that’s not possible, but by at least acknowledging our responsibility we can begin to heal internally. Only then can we begin to move past and get on with our lives.
While we never forget the incident, we do come to a place where we can learn from it; a place where we can encourage others, a place where we can offer counsel on how to avoid similar problems, a place that refines our spirits in the fires of truth and makes us better people.