I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
Philippians 3:12-14 NLT
The start of a new year is often a time of introspection and life evaluation. Crossing into the year 2020 is not just a time we consider our choices over the past year, but we are compelled to review the entirety of the previous decade. No doubt, in doing so, we take note of not only our points of reminiscent celebration, but also our regrets.
Regret is a natural response to our recall of perceived error. However, our actual response to regret is much more critical than the response of regret itself. We respond to regret at three different levels, and on each level of response there are two different modes of interaction. The response levels of regret are psychological, physiological, and physical. The modes of interaction within these levels are either active or passive.
The psychological response to regret comes about during the thought of the perceived error and its effects. When these thoughts arise, we can either control the thoughts (active) or allow the thoughts to consume us (passive).
The physiological response of regret is triggered when the attitudes and emotions generated by our thoughts begin to rise. They can range from anger to sorrow, disappointment to remorse, and from self-pity to heartbreak. These attitudes and emotions will cause us to feel certain things the body (hunger, headaches, heat, etc.)? Now when these physiological responses to our regret occur, we can either acknowledge them (active) or ignore them (passive). Whether we engage these physiological responses actively or passively, the fact is, they are still occuring. Yet, when we actively engage them we can both monitor and manage them.
The physical response to regret is triggered by the physiological response. If we move from the psychological response to the physical response without acknowledging the physiological responses, we could subconsciously become controlled by our physiological responses (passive), rather than making sound choices to properly manage physiological responses after fully engaging our thoughts, feelings and attitudes (active).
The more active we are within each level of our response to regret, the more information we gather about the error, the effects and ourselves. We could even discover that what we were perceiving as an error was merely a misunderstanding or circumstantial event. This can be extremely beneficial in developing new patterns of behavior and new solutions that can move us from darkness to discipline. We get to determine whether regret is a memorial of past failure or a motivator for future success. We choose whether our regrets become generous guests or a rent free roommates. As engaged guests, regrets usher us into inner dialogue that can teach how to make better choices, how to manage current conditions, and how to move forward. As uncontributing roommates, regrets become expensive liabilities that leave us isolated in our past, unable to move forward and unaware of the benefits and opportunities that surround us in the present.
In this life, regret will come for each of us. However, regret is something we either live with or learn from. If we learn from it, it lifts us. If we live with it leaves us stuck. I choose to get lifted.