The Uselessness of Regret

Friday, September 18, 2015
Every once in a while, I start thinking about things I should have done differently. I can think of a million different instances, but no matter how many examples I can come up with, regret only leads to shame and depression.



I've always been a perfectionist. I have always beaten myself up for my mistakes and felt guilty about every little thing. I think I win the record for how many times a day I repent for things I have done. And repentance is a good thing...until you are looking around trying to find something- because surely I've done something bad within the past hour...

We all make mistakes and bad choices every.single.day. Bummer. And as much as we should be striving to live rightly, there comes a point that we have to realize that we are humans. We are not Jesus- we are never going to cultivate the perfect life here on earth. If we could do that, Jesus would never have needed to come.
And when we realize that we are human, we also begin to realize that we have to let go of our regret.

Regret, in essence, is dredging up the "what ifs", the "I should haves" and the "I wish I had's". 

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In college I began struggling very heavily with anxiety. I had already dealt with it some in high school, but I suppose that with the newness of college, being away from my family, and so many new adventures all coming at me at once, the anxiety grew. And because of this, I spent much of my college years inwardly focused on the fact that I was anxious and not very good at dealing with it. I had a great support system (Taylor, my family, and several wonderful friends), but I still was focused on my troubles, not my blessings.

When I would go home on school breaks, I was always so happy to see my family, but my anxiety made me feel distanced from them. I tried really hard to be myself, but I always knew they could tell I wasn't all there. I would leave from break feeling guilty and sad, because I knew they wanted their old Kristin back...so did I.

I eventually started getting a little bit better, slowly learning how to handle the anxiety. And I knew they could see the improvements too. I was more like myself again and we talked more freely without my struggles hindering us. But this didn't change the fact that I wasted a lot of time with my family-fun, untarnished time- because of my anxiety and how self-consumed I was for a while. In addition to my battle with anxiety, I was still enjoying college, I had a boyfriend that I loved and was completely twitterpated over (Bambi, anyone?), and I was soaking in all of the new adventures. With so much going on all at once, it all added up to one thing: I was insanely busy and rarely called my family, and I was distracted when I did.

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It happens, I am not alone. Most kids do go MIA for a while when they are in college, but I regret this. I regret that I didn't talk to my nana more, and let her know how much I appreciated her. Now, she has a hard time talking because of her stroke and I may never hear her normal voice again. It probably hurt her feelings that I didn't call more often too. I wish I would have shown my mom more appreciation both over the phone and when I visted. I wish that I had spent less time dealing with my emotional issues and more time playing with my little brother when I was home for the holidays. I wish I had spent more time with my dad and grandaddy too.

But the thing is, my family understands. My family loves me, cares for me, knows what I was going through and they do not have hard feelings towards me. They are proud of me and they are proud of the person I am becoming. They are proud of what Taylor and I are and strive to be, and they are proud of me for pursuing my goals. They don't think of me as "Kristin: loser with anxiety", or "Kristin: that obnoxious girl". I'm the only one thinking that. And the only reason I think like that, is because I give into my regret. I let the regrets creep up, consume me, and lie to me.

Can I learn from my regret? For sure. Regret should cause me to change my actions. I try to call my family more often than I use to, for example. But my regret should not lead me to dwell on the past, chastise myself for my mistakes, or make me hate myself. Regret is useless in that way. It causes us to focus on the things we cannot change, and renders us ineffective in the present, since we are too busy dwelling on the past. Regret only makes us depressed and shameful. And guess what- Christ died for our shame, and rendered our depression pointless. We are forgiven, we are redeemed. We are not shamed. We are not defeated. We are not what we feel like we are- praise God!



So the next time we feel regret creeping in, we must remember that it is useless. Remember that the shame that comes with it is a lie. God has covered every one of our wrongs- from the tiniest mishap, to the largest of sins. Regret is useless. Cast it out!



14 comments

  1. You can't change what's happened or what's to come. You can only live in the moment and control how you react to situations. Hope that makes sense.

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    1. Yep. It does. We just have to live the best we can in each moment.

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  2. this is such a great reminder kristin. I feel regret often too. we simply have to learn and move on!

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    1. Thank you! And yes! Often, the learning isn't as hard as the moving on!

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  3. YES! Regret is one of the biggest lies we believe that keeps us from flourishing!

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    1. Definitely! It really does hinder us in huge ways!

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  4. Such a beautiful post, Kristin! Like you, I also sufffer from anxiety. I love that you tie in how regret has shaped the individual you are now- the important thing is that you have LEARNED and GROWN from your regret. You try to be a better person because of past regret, and that is SO important.

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  5. I couldn't agree with you more. Regret is useless. It's not going to change our past so we must not dwell on it.

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  6. This is beautiful! I love that you talk about the difference between regret and shame. Shame makes us feel like we are defined by the things we've done or that have been done to us, and regret can be a tool that reminds us to make different choices in the future. Thanks for sharing this truth and encouragement!

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    1. Thank you, Lauren! That means a lot and I am glad it was encouraging!

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  7. I so appreciate this article. It is something I struggle with from time to time. I love what you said in the end:"Remember that the shame that comes with it is a lie. God has covered every one of our wrongs- from the tiniest mishap, to the largest of sins. Regret is useless. Cast it out!" Exactly what God tells us to do in His Word - {2 Corinthians 10:4-5}. Thank you for being transparent and sharing with us.

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    1. Thank you, Rebeca! I am so glad it was a blessing! It was hard to write, but worth it.

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