Sunday, December 15, 2013

Regret Is an Awful Thing

How many times have you heard someone say that they regretted not doing something? Sure, you’ll often hear that they regretted some action they took, but what about the ones they didn’t take? How awful are those things and how do they gnaw at our being so that they come up every so often like some awful rash that just won’t go away no matter what we do? Yes, regret is an awful thing.

Certain regrets may be more powerful in their prolonged impact on our lives while others just bob up to the surface of our consciousness ever so slightly at yearly intervals. The ones we will find most painful, I believe, are those that involve people closest to us like our parents, our partners, our siblings, and our closest friends. People may attempt to deny their regret by justifying their actions, but do they really ever convince themselves, in their heart of hearts, that they were truly right in what they didn’t do?

Rationalize all you want, my friends, but you and I both know that you have suffered a wound by your inaction and it may never heal because the object of your neglect is no longer with us. Death brings finality to so many things and one is that it denies us the opportunity to undo that awful regretful inaction. No matter how much we want it, we will never be permitted to undo it. No word will suffice, no action will be possible. Nothing will serve as the intermediary and provide the path to peace. The door has been closed and our fate is sealed for eternity. Awful, just awful.

What have you failed to do in your life that you are thinking, right now, you might want to turn around right now? If there’s one thing that I think is beneficial in the 12-Step Programs it’s that the person must go and admit the wrongs they did. But wrongs aren’t just actions, as I’ve already said, they include inactions and perhaps too many people forget that.

Inaction kills in a manner that is slow and prolonged and what it kills is human relationships that should be flourishing. I used to tell my college students that what we learn and act on in our lives is like planting a garden. What type of garden have you planted and could it use a bit of careful attention by you? Are you satisfied with it or do you know that you need to make changes? Where are there spots that glare at you because you have neglected them? Consider all of it.

Do not live in regret and do what you can while you can. It really can be too late, but it doesn’t have to be so. The choice is yours.