Regrets: the clarity of the rear-view mirror
Shoulda, coulda, woulda is defined in the Urban Dictionary as a phrase meaning that it is of no use to dwell on what should have (shoulda), could have (coulda), or would have (woulda) happened/been done. It's the thought of regret that scrolls across the screen in our head when something clear appears in the rear-view mirror. Moderns have made it little more than a shrug, perhaps resistance to dwelling on the past. Still, to many people that thing back there is a regret that will remain with us for a long time. Learning to live with regrets and overcome their distraction is a step of maturity and growth. Otherwise the past will have a firm grip on our journey.
We all have them, you know. As a pastor for thirty-five years there are so many occasions of forgotten church door conversations, assumed expectations, and unwritten commitments that I could bore you with them for many pages. Thankfully most of them are inconsequential, little things that slipped through the cracks of packed schedules, over-commitments, a tendency to lean toward 'yes', and being part of a culture with loose attachments. Memory tends to disregard these quickly after a mental corrective note about better record keeping or more appropriate priorities. But, others are written in permanent marker. They are indelibly inscribed on our conscience and appear when circumstances bring them forward.
They're like the Milky Way candy bar commercial I saw the other day. The ad is
about the distraction of eating a Milky Way candy bar. Three scenes depict
people involved in an activity---two are moving a sofa, two are painting stripes on
a highway, and an artist is applying ink on a tattoo customer. The person eating
the candy bar is totally distracted from the work goal----one guy carrying the load
on the sofa, the highway lines swerving around the center of the road, and the
tattoo artist embedding a misspelled word on his customers arm. The customer
says, "No regerts?". There it is on his upper arm for all to see. Regerts? Hilarious.
You can watch it right here. Click here.
The most troubling regrets are never funny, however. A word misspoken, a date forgotten, an event overlooked, a promise not kept, a commitment not fulfilled, an important conversation that never happened, a person excluded, and a long list of other game changers that alter a relationship or change a dynamic. What is the remedy for overcoming these regrets and moving forward? Here are several options----
1. Lean forward.
Paul emphasized "...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 (Philippians 3: 13-14). As believers our orientation should be
forward when possible. We shouldn't steer by the rear-view mirror but only
glance there. Our regrets should be visits and not permanent residences.
2. Make it right with the other people involved.
Paul also suggested "...in humility count others more significant than
yourselves" (Philippians 2:3). For this reason one step beyond regrets is to
insure your relationship with other people who may have been involved. Seek
their forgiveness if you have slighted them. Offer it if they have wronged you.
3. Annotate your life to regulate it.
Often a regret is something we failed to do. In this busy world that failure may
be the result of a slammed schedule, crowded calendar, or poor administration.
Next time annotate your life to prevent the regret.
4. Grow spiritually in personal discipleship.
Note the similarity between the words discipline and disciple. Being a disciple is
taking the disciplines of Christ into your life. This may involve a better
awareness of time, knowing your tendencies and overcoming them, growing
beyond your natural limits, your known procrastination, forgetfulness,
shallowness, and quick responses. Jesus was keenly aware of his time. Count
the times when he mentioned that his hour had not come. So, be more mature
in the practice of your life.
5. Don't be flippant with your time.
Many of life's regrets are time oriented. We either didn't have enough, or tried
to do much in a given expanse of it. But, again, Paul commanded that we be
found "...making the best use of the time, because the days are evil"
(Ephesians 5:16). Being aware of and careful with our time is a good regret
The trigger for most regrets is either something simple, like life management, or fear of failure. Isn't that something, that the fear of failure would limit our chance to experience the fullness of his promises? He said to us...
I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Find it out. Without fear, or regrets!