After months of writing and talking about regret, a few people have told me that they’ve thoughts about it, and they really don’t have any regrets.
Ninety-nine out of a hundred conversations I’ve had with others about regret include the other person sharing a few headlines of their own if onlys. I am always ready to reference my own regrets in those discussions as well.
The “no regrets” crew has two distinct categories:
(1) People who have sought to live wisely, and have made some poor choices because they’re human beings. These people have been intentional about pursuing practical wisdom by owning those choices and processing them before God as they’ve journeyed with him.
(2) People who are living disconnected from their regrets. The disconnect can take on a lot of different looks ranging from denial, sometimes taking the form of super-spiritual talk and activity (“No need to revisit the past. It’s all ‘under the blood’.”) to escapism via self-destructive activity (self-medication to numb their pain).
Figuring out which kind of “no regret” is in operation is usually fairly obvious. When someone is sharing a story of pain, hurt or regret, and their conversation partner responds with some variation of “Why can’t you just move past this?”, they are proving their membership in category #2.
You don’t need to have gone through a lifetime of bad choices to become an empathetic person. Those who seek to understand by listening well, by seeking to honor with humility and respect the feelings of another, by being present with someone else’s pain are either those who have a short list of regrets because they’ve processed them in a healthy way in the presence of God as they’ve walked through life, or they’re people who are sensitized to the hurt of others because they’ve recognized their own brokenness. This lack of empathy can show up in all sorts of ways. A “get over it” reaction to a friend’s woe, or a patronizing, dismissive response to stories of institutionalized racism (this excellent blog post highlights what this sort of approach looks like) both showcase the way in which a disconnect from our own regrets desensitizes us to ourselves and others. [Read more]