The Most Important Lesson Regret Has Taught Me

I was a senior in college as I sat in the 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.

I was handed a half-dozen roses and the different professors thanked me, told me how much my piano playing had added to the event, and complimented my abilities as a psychology student.

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I remember as I held the roses and the professors spoke, I wanted to shrink into my seat. 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. I muttered the obligatory thank you’s as they spoke.

When they were done, one of them tried to engage me in conversation. I had already thanked them 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. As I said it, I already regretted it. They, somewhat awkwardly, said, “Of course.”

Well, clearly, I proved I didn’t need to study psychology or counseling, I needed psychological counseling!

I was so self-conscious that I didn’t handle that setting with maturity. And, today, at age 51, I still remember it and regret it.

The bummer about regret is that it is based on something in the past and you can’t change the past. We all have a heap of “wish I had’s” and “I shouldn’t haves!”

The bummer about regret is that it is based on the past and you can’t change the past.
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We often look back in the rear-view mirror of our lives and see that land-fill of “coulda,” “shoulda,” and “I wish it would just go away.” Or, at least we wish we could just get far enough away from our regrets that we can’t see them in our mind’s eye anymore.

But, girls, we forget appointments, we forget to turn off the oven, we even forget our kid’s names…

But, we never seem to forget what we regret!

We remember our mistakes with keen precision, don’t we?

Since we often can’t forget, and we certainly can’t change the past, what can we do?

We can’t change the past, but we can change our perspective.

We can’t change the past, but we can change our perspective. We can change how we respond to regret.
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We can change how we respond to regret. If we allow regret to make us feel bad about ourselves, it won’t improve our lives. But, if we choose to learn from the past and make changes because of what we learn, then we won’t live in regret.

We will actually move from being regretful about our past to becoming grateful for it.

Regret can be a teacher. When regret becomes our teacher, our past mistakes are redeemed.

If we choose to learn from the past and make changes because of what we learn, then we won’t live in regret.
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Instead of looking back to that conference room and saying, “I will never react like that again,” I look back and ask, “Why did I react like that?”

Regret over my reaction that day has taught me that I don’t naturally handle praise well. I feel awkward.

I am grateful for that experience because it taught me that to reject someone’s compliment is to reject their attempt to bless me.

When regret becomes our teacher, our past mistakes are redeemed.
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Feeling regret over my immature reaction has prompted me to examine my heart to determine why I don’t handle praise or compliments well. I learned that whether I have an inflated view of myself or a deflated view of myself — either way, I am full of myself!

So, regret became my teacher as it taught me to reduce my self-awareness and increase my God, and other, awareness. I am so, so, grateful for what regret taught me.

Because when I am full of God, I can’t be full of myself.

Why I did what I did is more important than what I did. The “what” of regret is often far less important than the “why” of regret. Why did I say that? Why did I do that? Why did I believe that?

When I am full of God, I can’t be full of myself.
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When you ask yourself the “why” questions rather than just beating yourself up for what you did, your regret will no longer enslave you, it will begin to serve you.

So, if you are a sister stuck in the past, God says to you, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:18-20

The “what” of regret is often far less important than the “why” of regret.
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God wants to do a new thing in your life. He wants to take that regret and turn it into gratefulness.

Question:  What is the most important lesson regret has taught you?

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