Closing in on 50 helped me to really come to terms with the difference between regret and reflection. Both cause us to look backwards. Both require us to contemplate a bit about what we’re seeing in that rearview mirror. But the similarities end there because the reason we choose one way or the other and the end results are not the same.
Over the years, I have had regrets. More than a few times I have wished I’d have done, said, or chosen something (or someone) different. I’ve wasted a lot of time asking the classic question: What if? But I never got the answer to that question. Never. Not once, no matter how many times I asked it. In fact. the more I asked that question, the more I felt self-blame followed by self-punishment.
I’ve concluded that the reason I always ended up feeling that way was because I, like possibly many of you, always assumed that the other choice was better. But that isn’t necessarily true. There is no way to know if, in the long run, things would be better on another path. Even on a different path, I would still have done things like make mistakes, hurt someone and been hurt by someone, and I would have still, from time-to-time, wondered about a choice I didn’t make. What’s safe to say is that the path not taken would be different.
Wondering about what might have been no longer makes me sad. I realize now that no amount of wondering or fantasizing about an alternate life is going to change the past. Life isn’t a movie in which the leading character, after a bump on the head, gets a glimpse of how their life might have turned out with option B then wakes up feeling confident they made the right choice. Life doesn’t work that way. And I don’t need it to.
Reflecting is my choice these days. I do look back and occasionally wonder a little. But I don’t fall into the darkness of feeling as if I missed out on something because I don’t know that I have missed anything. Nowadays, I use reflection more as a tool to plan for the future. I know that might sound crazy. But a lot of what I have going on now and planned for the future is based on this question: What have I always wanted to do? And that answer lies in reflection, not regret.
I am happy with who I am today. I am a work in progress. We all are. I am who I am today because of the choices I made. Good or bad, I own that fact. I am constantly learning and changing and moving forward. I hope you are, too.
In Romans 8:28, we are told “God works all things together for the good of those who love him and have been called according to His purpose.” That means that everything will work out. All we can do is do our best and trust that God stiches it all together and gets us back on track, even if we’ve slightly changed the course.
Today’s take away: choose reflection…not regret.