Everyone wants to live a life without regrets, but very few actually do it. When we were younger, "living without regrets" was a phrase we seemed to use much more often than we do now. I wonder why that is.
When our kids were born, we didn't want to regret how we raised them so I stayed home and devoted myself to motherhood the best I knew how. I certainly don't regret that. I don't regret being silly with them or letting them play in mud puddles or letting them dress up the cat. I also don't regret spanking them or trying to teach them manners. Lord knows they needed both.
During Tom's last year of college, we had a business opportunity and a choice to make: postpone his final semester of college to start a business or finish the degree on time and lose the opportunity. We didn't want to regret not taking a chance, so we took the business opportunity. Now that 20 years have passed, the business is long gone and he still has one semester left of college. Part of me feels a little regretful that we didn't let the opportunity wait while he finished that degree.
It's hard to know WHAT you'll regret years from now. Back then, we certainly couldn't see the pain and misery that business would bring us. But we also couldn't see how God used it to break us, humble us, and ultimately strengthen us. We just did the best we could with what we had, and sometimes that brings some regret along with it.
I think I've come to realize that a person who truly lives without any regrets is not the kind of person I want to be. Having no regrets means that you think you did everything right. That every decision you ever made was perfect and that if you had it to do over again, you'd do it exactly the same way.
And who of us can really say that? I regret that I didn't stand up for my daughter, Lauren, like I should have when an adult said some horribly untrue things about her. I regret that I didn't write more letters to my grandparents, and that I popped pimples as a teenager.
Having regret is not always a bad thing. Many regrets go far deeper than popping pimples. When we hurt someone, we should regret it. We should regret immoral decisions. We should regret self-destructive behavior. Regret should make us take stock of ourselves and our actions. It should lead us to repentance and then to resolve. Without regret, there is no reason to change.
I'm really glad we've set out to live a life without regrets. It has helped forge the way we parent, the way we work and the things we believe. It helps chart our course through the tricky waters we often navigate. But just as important as purposefully living regret-free lives is, admitting that there will always be some regrets along the way may be just as important.
Acknowledging our regrets makes us vulnerable and imperfect. It makes us admit that we are not always the master of our own destiny, the controller of our universe. Regret helps us admit mistakes. It gives us empathy for others, and a common bond in another's struggles. It keeps us humble, and that's kind of how I think we are supposed to be. We don't have it all figured out.
Maybe that's why we talk about it less these days. We're still just trying to do it.