Do you have a long list of stupid things you’ve said and done? Yeah, me too. Then, if you’re like me, you have the harmful habit of constantly re-experiencing those thoughtless and injurious acts of idiocy. And when we do, we focus on the fault and re-experience the pain. In the process, we ignore any lessons we’ve learned.
To help myself – and perhaps you too, I’ve invented a word that refers to this harmful way of thinking: regretism. To regret means to “feel sorrow or remorse for an act, fault, or disappointment.” It becomes an ism—a flawed belief system—when it overwhelms your soul and offends your self-worth.
I regret to admit I suffer from regretism. It’s so easy for me to recall some arcane long-ago ill-advised thing I said or did, and my recollection is always vivid and self-condemning. Instantly, that nasty little memory voice silently screams in my soul, “Why did you do such a stupid thing, Ron?” In the process, I ignore every kind act, every right decision, or any good word I have ever shared with another.
When my wife of over 50 years died of brain cancer, I suffered from regretism for many months. After her death, in the silence of my home decorated so lovingly by her, I regretted not thanking or complimenting her more often. Often, I wandered through the house and gazed at family photos taken over the years. As I looked, I regretted not telling her what a great wife and mother she was and how beautiful she was and how I was always proud to have her as my wife. In her absence, my unresolved emotions amplified my regret.
Over time, I learned that I could not live life feeling sorry for my omissions and oversights. Regrets for what I did or did not do yesterday spoiled my tomorrows. Shame, I learned, is not a proactive thing – it’s a regressive, never-ending, guilt-inducing, joy stealing reaction.
For some reason, we preserve negative, emotionally charged memories in much greater detail than happy and positive remembrances. With great ease, we rehearse again and again how someone harmed us or we harmed them, or how opportunity was ignored, or how love passed us by. The joyful times, the good things that happened to us take a back seat to the ease of feeling sorry for ourselves—regret.
Regretism is a habit and a bad one. If you suffer from the nasty habit of reliving all the hurt and sorrow of the past, start seeking out the silver lining behind those dark clouds. Remember all the blessings of life. Forgive yourself, and the setbacks and blunders will begin to diminish. You are certain only of this moment of your life—the one you have right now. Develop a wholesome awareness for the present. Love those around you. Speak well about everyone. Rid yourself of all negative descriptions and give yourself compliments for overcoming, for forgiving and receiving forgiveness. You are not the mistakes you made but the lessons you learned.