Regret and All Things

By Kersley Fitzgerald

I never regret anything. Because every little detail of your life is what made you into who you are in the end.
Drew Barrymore [1]
As much as I adore Drew Barrymore, I think this is a load of horse hockey.

It's a fairly popular sentiment, though. Usually a conviction given by someone who is noticeably wiser and more mature, looking back over past mistakes, and how the repercussions of those mistakes changed them, making them the person they are today.

You're never going to hear me say that. I am wiser and more mature than I used to be. I can see how my mistakes have resulted in someone with more perspective, kindness, and grace. I am grateful for those changes.

But I'm not grateful for the mistakes I made along the way. I regret deeply the people I've hurt, the selfishness I've lived out, and the ways I've rejected God. Sin is sin-wrong-bad, and I refuse to justify them by saying something good came out of them.
There are no regrets in life, just lessons.
Jennifer Aniston [2]
Sin doesn't change things for the better. You don't add dirt to water to make it clean. Sinning never made me a better person. God did that.

And He said He would. Romans 8:28 says, "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." If there is anything in my life that started with a sin and ended with a positive change in my life, it was because of God, not the sin (James 1:17). It was not because of my willpower or because I was astute enough to get the lesson. It was because God's sovereignty and grace are powerful enough to take away the dirt of my sin and the dirt in my character that led to my sin and, miraculously, end up with something a little bit cleaner.
When you're happy you find pure joy in your life. There are no regrets in this state of happiness - and that's a goal worth striving for in all areas of your life.
Suze Orman [2]
It's popular to reject regret because regret allows something I can't change determine how I feel now. Wallowing in regret is depressing and ungrateful. But it doesn't follow that the answer is to ignore or gloss-over the mistakes. It's better to deal with them through repentance. Regret is remembering something with a feeling of sorrow or disappointment. Repentance is declaring that the action was wrong and that a better action should have been taken. Specifically, to say that the action was sin, and I should have obeyed God. Repentance is allowing God to dig out the bad and fill it with good, instead of ignoring the bad and covering it with a thin layer of denial.

What results is a real joy that isn't dependent on my situation or the self-satisfying (somewhat conceited) feeling of "lessons learned." It's restored relationships instead of a vague conviction to do better in the future. That takes real God-work.
Accept everything about yourself - I mean everything. You are you and that is the beginning and the end - no apologies, no regrets.
Henry Kissinger [2]
Repentance means I allow God to make the best of a bad situation. That doesn't mean this was the best possible situation. The best situation would be the blessings God gives when I don't make mistakes in the first place. Sin shouldn't be necessary for me to be kinder, wiser, and more gracious. Jesus didn't sin, and He did just fine. If I hadn't started out with the saturating sin of selfish pride, God could have matured my character without the individual sins I now regret.

I truly believe that God didn't need my sin to make me into a better person. In fact, I believe I would have been a better person if He hadn't had to spend so much of His time dealing with my sin. If I'm mean to my kid, it's good if I feel regret and promise not to do it again. It's better if I apologize and repent and allow God to work in my character and relationship. But it's best if I were never mean in the first place; if I allowed God to work in my character before the event so that it was never a possibility.

I am not thankful for the sin that provided the lessons that resulted in a more mature character. And I'm pretty sure the people I hurt along the way aren't, either. I am thankful for the gracious God who allowed me to experience good despite my extensive list of pickle-headed moves. But I regret that I didn't just let Him mold me into the person He wanted me to be without all the unnecessary sin.


Photo credit: Kersley Fitz

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Published 10-1-13