Living With Regret: How To Transform This Negative Emotion
How to handle negative emotions is one of the most controversial topics in the self-help movement-particularly such emotions as “regret.”
“The (desire to change one’s ways) that is according to the will of God, produces a repentance (change and amends) but without regret.” (2 Corinthians 7:10).
Regret is an emotion that might very well control us more than any other. Since it is also an emotion that we often try to ignore or repress, it tends to do its damage beneath the surface of our conscious mind. Some of us allow such negative emotions to exist because we assume that we “deserve to have regret” as a punishment for the “poor choices” we’ve made. Others take the opposite approach and try avoiding regret by brushing it aside, never taking responsibility nor attempting to improve upon themselves. The former of these can be a statement of being a victim; the latter can be a statement of pure arrogance.
There is another option. Regret can serve us for good in that it can remind us to refrain from repeating the same mistakes. However, this could imply that our fear of experiencing the negative outcomes of our past errors will make us “behave” our way back into God’s good graces. This is simply not so. It is not enough for human beings to simply “behave themselves,” if such “good” behavior is motivated by guilt or regret. We have learned that there is a part of us, the Christ within, that is so pure it needs not to be “frightened into behaving” or “scared straight.” The Christ within is pure Love, and where pure Love is, fear cannot exist. Besides, God already sees us as perfect and sinless.
Regret is also a form of self-condemnation, created by our ego as a means of keeping us in a state of un-forgiveness. When we use regret to keep us from doing something “wrong,” we are trying to tell God that we’ve got our own plan for correcting errors. We think we will not need God’s plan for release-known as “forgiveness of self.”
Self-condemnation is also our ego’s way to keep us from learning and healing-our only two reasons for being here on earth. This, in turn, keeps us from being liberated and free. Instead, for us to heal our regrets, we have to confront them-head on-by processing them and then coming to peace with them!
So how do you know if your regrets are valid and that your awkward feelings about previous behaviors are valid or not? One way to know is to ask yourself if you would repeat the past behavior in the present time of your life. If not, then it probably wasn’t for your highest good in the past. If you are still uncertain, you can ask yourself if what you did choose in the past is something you would recommend to others-particularly someone you care about. If you wouldn’t recommend certain choices and behaviors to others, then why in God’s name would you try to justify that it was okay for you?
Look out for part 2.