It’s always the same… you’re listening to someone proudly, defiantly, stating, “I have no regrets because my past made me who I am.” And impressed are all of we for having dinner with Edith Piaf (Look her up). But should we be?
I doubt few people have uttered those words from a jail cell. If they did, I can’t help but wonder if they will be back in jail some day, based on this opinion. Furthermore, I doubt few people have gone their whole life without hurting someone they care about. Are they really so self-possessed that they wouldn’t have changed those moments for a little more kindness or compassion? Are they so arrogant to not acknowledge they could have been better and probably should have been? And if they use the argument that all of life’s experience have made them who they are, is there an implication that this is the very best they could possibly be? Really? This is the very best “me,” there could possibly be? It seems too convenient, too, confined… too limiting.
I understand the rationale behind the “no regrets,” philosophy, but it seems to imply a little more bravado than truth. It ignores humility and fragility which in themselves are brave and strong when truly understood. There are many things that I regret. I regret not speaking up when I should have. I regret not biting my tongue when the moment called for it. I regret not appreciating what I had and letting go of what I didn’t need. However, just as important as facing my flaws, I’ve learned from them. I accept that I wasn’t perfect, I’m not perfect now, and I doubt I’ll be perfect in the future. I’m a lifelong student and with that comes responsibility of learning and continuing to learn from failures. Regretting is an honest acceptance of fact, and that makes you stronger. If you don’t face the pain and accept responsibility you’re really denying yourself an important part of living; humility.
It’s OK to have regrets, it’s just not healthy to linger on them. Regretting, when done properly, allows for honesty, building, accepting and improving. In the instance of learning by error there are two basic methods:
- Blunt Force Trauma: The decisions you make that impact your life negatively.
- The Train Wreck: The decisions other people make and you witness.
In a perfect world, neither of these would happen, but they do. When you make mistakes, own them, lament them, learn from them, and live on.