It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to, you would cry too if it happen to you…goes the old song. But, do you ever stop crying? I’ve been thinking about moments of regret vs a lifestyle of regret and have decided that a great tool to avoid the latter is giving myself a “time in”. It looks like this: When my son was small he hated going to stores, especially stores he labeled as “girl stores”. Often a tantrum or melt down would ensue. One day, as we walked toward a store, the melt down began. This time I decided to let him; with some guidelines. “Son, wait. You don’t want to go in do you? It looks like it makes you mad. Why don t you tell the store how mad it makes you. Kick the wall, stomp your feet, just yell out how mad it makes you. For two minutes; then we are going into the store and I want you to say, “oh well, it isn’t so bad and we are going to leave soon” whenever you feel mad again. Ok? But for two minutes I’m going to let you have a fit. Ready? Go!” Silence. More silence. “Go ahead, you only have a minute and a half left. Would you like me to show you how? Grrrr, I don’t like you silly store. I don’t want to go in. Stomp, stomp, stomp. Ok, you try it.” Slight whimpers from my perplexed child began to vocalize then ceased. “Come on bud, there are only 30 seconds left, at which he makes a half-hearted attempt at a tantrum” Time’s up. He wipes his tears and we start to walk in. The moment his feet cross the threshold tears start to flow. “Wait,wait. Oh, man. I’m sorry, but your two minutes are up. Now it is time to say “oh well..it isn’t so bad, and we are going to leave soon.” but thanks for throwing a fit outside, I’m sure you feel better. ” I tell him. Much to my joy and amazement he wiped his tears, sniffed, and dociley follows me around the store chatting away. We had a great time together.
He was allowed a minute to truly express himself and realized it wasn’t so bad. Sometimes everything in our head becomes overwhelming and regrets are no different. The problem comes when we live in regret land. When we do we pay the taxes of shame, remorse, loss of hope, loss of identity, loss of joy, and the inability to live in todayland. We all have regrets and you are allowed to and should feel every emotion that goes with it. It is not wrong to feel sad over a missed opportunity or angry over an injustice, as a matter of fact it is good to put appropriate emotions to situations. However, it is wrong to nurse it, and encourage it to grow.
I think of two verses from the bible in this situation Proverbs 13:12 Hope deferred makes the heart-sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.-niv and Hebrews 12:15 See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. When we live in Regret Land our hope for ourselves is deferred, we start to sound like Eeyore from Winne the Pooh “wouldn’t matter anyway” (I wish I could write the sound of his voice-so think Eeyore as you read it). We become hopeless and it starts to show in our actions and soon in our demeanor. Have you ever met people who you could tell by one look they label themselves as “loser”? Sometimes these are people who have never left the land of regret and it robs them of today and tomorrow. They have no hope and they are heartsick. Many times this hopelessness grows into something nasty, entitled, bitter. It takes one minute in the presence of a bitter person to feel their bitterness. It feels unpleasant, slimy, prickly, or may even produce fear-you are being defiled. What should we do then? Regret is a part of life. Life cannot be done perfectly, there will be regret.
I think one thing we do is take a moment of regret. Give yourself a “time in” instead of a “time out”. Say to yourself “For two minutes I’m going to allow myself to agree with the regret I feel. I’m going to say “yep, i missed that opportunity or yep, that was stupid, etc.” then take a minute to allow yourself to feel sad, angry, disappointed, whatever emotion rightfully fits and then let it go. Say “oh well, that was a shame, but it is time to move on. I have a new day and new chances.” and say that every time you feel regret well up for the rest of that day. What you are really doing is saying “there is grace and I accept it”.
One other thing that I think helps in moving beyond regret is to keep short accounts with people and remember to sincerely say your sorry. Sometimes just saying to someone that we really blew it and we are so sorry makes a big, big difference. It doesn’t change the past or undo the flub, but it takes care of the other persons heart and yours. Even if you only apologize to yourself. Can you let yourself off the hook?
So, go ahead. I’m giving you a “time in” a time to regret. Don’t just think about it, do it. Do you need me to show you how? “oh man, that was stupid. How could I______? Why didn’t I_____? Grrrr, What a dope I was, sigh, sigh, stomp, forehead smack. or ya, know after all these years when I think of _________it still makes me sad. I’m so _______.(angry, sad, hurt). I really am.” Many of our regrets are worth the feelings we feel, but many are regrets for things we had no power to control or that were not actually wrong, stupid, crazy, etc. They just were and you are the only one that thought anything about it. Let it go. Say “oh well, that was a shame, but it is time to move on. I have a new day and new chances.” and I think you’ll have a lovely day.
Disclaimer: There is so much more to be unpacked than will fit in a simple blog, but I want to point out that I am not talking about people who have walked in a history of abuse or who suffer from mental illness or for whom life has been a real, legitimate uphill battle of extremes i.e. extreme poverty, abuse, neglect, depression etc. I am by no means subscribing to a pull yourself up by your bootstraps mentality. I mean it they way I wrote it. Cut yourself a break. Don’t try to act like there are never any regrets, try letting yourself feel it when it comes up-for a little bit. Then let it go. Get up, move on, do something. Make your thoughts of more (hope) become action. I believe it can be done. For the bigger issues I feel like that is what counseling, therapy, psychiatric care, self-help groups etc. are there for-to help you when you can’t help yourself. Take advantage of them. And most of all have hope.