“Do you have any regrets in life?” We hear this question asked by others and, most often, by our own interior voice. Inherent to our humanity, we make mistakes.
We wish we had done it differently—would have, should have, could have. And because we didn’t, we experience pain, sorrow, self-doubt, and doubt in God.
In the Gospels, Jesus gives us good guidance with our regrets when He asks us to have the courage to repent and to change for the better through Him. There may be no better example than the profound regret Peter experienced in denying Christ, only to then become the foundation of the Church. His humility and openness to growth led Peter to spiritual greatness. Without his regrets—those things he wished he hadn’t done—he would not have gotten there.
There are two paths to take when it comes to regrets—one holds us back from our spiritual potential, the other leads us into a deeper relationship with God.
“Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”
(1 Peter 5:7)
How easy it is to travel the dark road of rumination and anger. We go there without even knowing it, replaying regrets to the point of cherishing them. Getting caught in this unhealthy trap is not the same as acknowledgement of wrongdoing or genuine sorrow over choices made, both of which are so necessary for healing and growth. Instead, the replay tends to feed self-defeat, and we become mesmerized by our own negative voices and thoughts to the exclusion of God’s merciful voice.
There is a way, though, to live with our regrets, making use of them as an important part of the spiritual path to God. This road, the path that seeks God, looks regret square in the eye and sees a signal that there are important lessons to be learned. This path changes the “if only…” thoughts into “next time I will…” thoughts.
Here the key is looking for the growth opportunities from a past pain. When considered this way, regrets are transformed from setbacks into catalysts for change. Regrettable experiences seen as part of our spiritual journey become understood as much-needed prompts from God to get us moving in a different direction. The difficult past becomes a gift where we can discover holy ground. Cast in the light of God’s love, we have no reason for lingering regrets when the events in our life have drawn us closer to Him.
This path is not easy, and it is no doubt “the road less traveled,” but walking it challenges us to reflect, absorb, let go, and apply lessons learned going forward, all toward deeper faith and a closer relationship with God.