It’s a new year and a new opportunity to look ahead at all that it will bring us. But it’s also the time of year when we can feel the most plagued by thinking about the past. Regret is a feeling of tension about a choice that you made in the past, and it’s all about memories—the “could haves' and' “should haves” that keep us up at night.
We’ve all experienced regret in one form or another—a text we shouldn’t have sent, a corner we cut at work, a relationship that we let dissolve—and we know the feeling it brings with it—a looping, seemingly never-ending cycle that rolls around in our heads about what we would change it we could. The truth about regret is that it doesn’t go away unless we do something about it. And to do something about it, we have to first figure out exactly what we’re dealing with.
Ask yourself, “What kind of regret am I feeling?”
There are two types of regret:
- Regret that can be fixed
- Regret that can’t be fixed
If your regret is fixable...
While our first reaction to regret is usually “it’s unfixable,” take a moment to really think about the root of the regret that you’re feeling. Maybe it’s been months, but could you try to send a follow up text that explains your feelings and presents an apology? Would you be able to tell your boss face-to-face about the corner you cut and ask for forgiveness? Is it out of the question to start to build that dissolved relationship back up, little by little? Use the regret you feel as motivation to fix a situation you created with a choice that you made—you might be surprised at how easily you can reverse it.
If your regret is unfixable…
Sometimes the reality of the situation is that it can’t be fixed—the relationship is out of your control, the outcome is irreversible, or maybe death has cut an opportunity short. The good news is that even if your regret can’t be fixed, you still have a chance to make a change. In Philippians, Paul explains that even though he still has regrets, instead of dwelling on them, he’s using the opportunity to look ahead and better himself in his future. “No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead” (Phillipians 3:13). Use the regret you feel as motivation to better who you are and keep yourself from making the same regret again next time, and save yourself feeling future regret.
No matter what type of regret you feel, there is always hope on the other side. We can’t always fix it, but we can always start making changes right where we are.