“Regrets, I've had a few. But then again . . .” . . . way too many to mention. Or repeat in public.
Woeful theology and narcissistic tendencies aside in the entire song, I'm thinking about just this line of Sinatra's famous theme today. It's become quite popular to embrace the idea that we should never regret anything. That everything happens for a purpose. Therefore, obviously, no one has to ever be sorry for anything. You've seen it on many a Facebook or Pinterest “wise saying” icon. Sounds like great “moving forward” advice. Except, it's wrong.
Mind you, I've probably said it occasionally. If we are who we are because of where we've been and what we've done, it makes sense that we've learned a few things from the bad stuff and should be grateful for it. And I am. I don't regret the things that have happened in my life in the sense that I wish things were different. I don't believe God needs to do an edit/rewrite. There is purpose.
But making the best of bad decisions, and allowing God to make the best of them, are not the same as not being sorry for them. And I think that more often than not when I see this idea being embraced, it's a way of letting ourselves off the hook. Just one more way modern America manages to blame someone else, or at least pretend bad choices aren't really bad choices. Just, um, mistakes. Alternate paths. Growth opportunities.
To quote child #3's new favorite show,
Suspect: “In retrospect, that might seem like it was a stupid thing to do.”
Officer: “Nope, no retrospect needed. It was stupid the moment you did it.”
Some things just are.
Accepting our past, making peace with it, and moving on is good. Healthy. Necessary. Taking the straw of life and making gold is redemptive and beautiful. But the fact is, making peace is impossible if we don't tell the truth about what happened. It's like Germany signing the Treaty of Versailles and then saying, “Well, OK, but didn't this all turn out well in the end anyway, so what do we really have to be sorry for?”
“For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience brings repentance and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.” (2 Corinthians 7.10)
No regret for what? Actually admitting we were wrong, changing things, and then moving on. Never dealing with the problem ends badly. No shortcuts, if we want no regret.
I have regrets. I've screwed up. I don't dwell on them. I don't live with them daily. I've turned them over to God as past and asked him to forgive and forget. And he has, because he promises that. And so have I. He's made gold of some of it. But I've never seen a wound healed without first being cleaned. I've never seen a journey continued without clearing the road. Regrets? They're OK. Go ahead and have them. Deal with them. Then move on.
What's your least favorite popular saying?