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Living a Life Without Regrets

Aug 24, 2010

Miss Philippines might have made her first major mistake in life, with her answer to the question, “what is one big mistake you’ve made, and what did you do to make it right?” So far, she’s been fortunate enough to live a regret-free life, but somehow I think this might qualify as one moment she’ll regret, sadly.

See, everyone wants to live a life without regrets, but very few actually
do it. When my husband and I were younger, “living without regrets” was a phrase we
seemed to use much more often than we do now. I wonder why that is.

When our kids were born, we didn’t want to regret how we raised them
so I stayed home and devoted myself to motherhood the best I knew how. I
certainly don’t regret that. I don’t regret being silly with them or
letting them play in mud puddles or letting them dress up the cat. I
also don’t regret spanking them or trying to teach them manners. Lord
knows they needed both.

During Tom’s last year of college, we had a business opportunity and a
choice to make: postpone his final semester of college to start a
business, or finish the degree on time and lose the opportunity. We
didn’t want to regret not taking a chance, so we took the business
opportunity. Now that 20 years have passed, the business is long gone
and he still has one semester left of college. Part of me feels a little
regretful that we didn’t let the opportunity wait while he finished
that degree.

It’s hard to know WHAT you’ll regret years from now. Back then, we
certainly couldn’t see the pain and misery that business would bring us.
But we also couldn’t see how God used it to break us, humble us, and
ultimately strengthen us. We just did the best we could with what we
had, and sometimes that brings some regret along with it.

I think I’ve come to realize that a person who truly lives without any
regrets is not the kind of person I want to be. Having no regrets means
that you think you did everything right. That every decision you ever
made was perfect and that if you had it to do over again, you’d do it
exactly the same way.

And who of us can really say that?

Having regret is not always a bad thing. When we hurt someone, we should regret it. We
should regret immoral decisions. We should regret self-destructive
behavior. Regret should make us take stock of ourselves and our actions.
It should lead us to repentance and then to resolve. Without regret,
there is no reason to change.

I’m really glad we’ve set out to live a life without
regrets. It has helped forge the way we parent, the way we work and the
things we believe. It helps chart our course through the tricky waters
we often navigate. But just as important as purposefully living
regret-free lives is, admitting that there will always be some
along the way may be just as important.

Acknowledging our regrets makes us vulnerable and imperfect. It makes
us admit that we are not always the master of our own destiny, the
controller of our universe. Regret helps us admit mistakes. It gives us
empathy for others, and a common bond in another’s struggles. It keeps
us humble, and that’s kind of how I think we are supposed to be. We
don’t have it all figured out.

Maybe that’s why we talk about it less these days. We’re still just
trying to do it.

How would you answer Miss Phillipines’ question? “What is one big mistake you’ve made in life, and what did you do to make it right?” How has regret helped you make different decisions?