By Edwin D. Arceo

Have you ever heard the phrase,”‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all,” by Alfred Lord Tennyson? It a phrase that we mention when we encourage people to face a challenge or regret not doing it.

Wikipedia.com defines regret as, “A negative conscious and emotional reaction personal past acts and behaviors. Regret is often a feeling of sadness, shame, embarrassment, depression, annoyance, or guilt after one acts in a manner and later wishes not have done so.”

In Tagalog, “pagsisisi” or “panghihinayang.

According to a 2005 paper published in the Society for Personality and Social Psychology written by Neal J. Roese and Amy Summerville, the top six biggest regrets in descending order are education, career, romance, parenting, the self, and leisure.

We regret because we want to punish ourselves for the things that we did or did not do.

It’s tough to live with regrets. Here are a few that you may have experienced:

  • Never starting your dream company and settled to being an employee.
  • Never expressing your intentions to a girl and not finding out if you had a shot or not.
  • Missing an opportunity because of laziness, indecisiveness or inaction and feeling really bad about it.
  • That one night stand where you lost your virginity.
  • Not standing up to bullies in school.*
  • Breaking with someone you truly love because of a “small” misunderstanding.*
  • Not having enough confidence in one’s self.*
  • Spending time with family especially your spouse and kids*

Why is it hard not to regret? Joachim I. Krueger, Ph. D. offers this insight, “Regret is a moral emotion, and moral emotions cut to the limbic system (The limbic system is a set of brain structures located on both sides of the thalamus, immediately beneath the cerebrum.) They allow us to condemn others. Wait! Regret is a condemnation of self, not others.”

We regret because we want to punish ourselves for the things that we did or did not do. Regret makes it easier. Psychologists like Dr. Krueger asks us to “Forget regret.”

That may be good advice but for most of us it’s not easy. Derek Hill, writing for whatchristianswanttoknow.com, states that, “Satan, the father of lies, wants us to always regret. The devil makes it so easy to go back and relive memories that we aren’t proud of. Satan will do anything possible to get ay us mentally. Regret can be a devastating monster if we don’t keep it in check.”

Therefore, let us heed the advice of the Apostle Paul to the believers in Philippi, in Philippians 3:13, “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Forgetting is never easy, that is why the Apostle asks us to “strain forward.” Not glide or flow forward where there is no effort. We have to strain because all regret will do to us is to keep us from doing something good for ourselves and for others. People can get stuck in regret.

If YOU are in regret mode right now, I, therefore, offer these advice based loosely from the About page of unstuck.com:

  1. Make a decision. Decide to stop regretting about things that happened in the past and strain to move forward.
  2. Set goals. The SMART way helps Specific. Measurable. Attainable. Realistic. Time-bound.
  3. See different possibilities.
  4. Get to the why it. Find out what went wrong and again, strain to do it right next time.
  5. Make a plan. That is why the A-Team always succeed, they always plan.
  6. Get motivated. Know what is in store for you after you stop regretting and moved on.
  7. Deal with change. Of course, some of the consequences of the wrong action, or inaction can still be felt. Deal with it! Suck on it! It’s going to end.
  8. Rediscover purpose. What does God want to do with your life? It may seem cliche, but God has a purpose for your life than rotting in some corner of your house.

To end this, remember 2 Corinthians 7:10, “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.”

** Based on a “The 25 Biggest Regrets In Life. What Are Yours?” by Eric Jackson for Forbes.com