Coping with Regret by Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur


macarthurRegret is one of those things that seem to plague everyone’s life in one way or another. None of us is perfect. We have all screwed up at one point or another. Merriam-Webster defines “regret” in two ways. The first is “to mourn the loss or death of; to miss very much.”  The second is “to be very sorry for <regret his mistakes>.” When we think of regret, we probably identify more with the second definition. We look back at our lives and see the errors in judgment. In some cases, we knew we were making a wrong decision at the time and did it anyway. In others, we truly did make the best decision we could at the time; yet, hindsight has proven that we should have taken a different path. Yet, the first definition is also relevant. When we regret our past, we are also in mourning. We miss the road not taken, the chance to have made our lives better.

Scripture makes clear that we are not to spend our time looking behind us. Phillipians 3:13-14 states that  “Just one thing: forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus.” What matters in the final analysis where we end up; not the detours we took along the way. We need to keep our eyes on the ultimate prize.

None of us can change one moment of our past. Yet, mourning that past can waste our present moment.  We do have to live with the consequences of our past actions, and sometimes those consequences can seem very harsh. The only thing we can do, however, is try to make the best decisions we can in this instant. We can learn from our past errors. We also need to pray for God’s guidance and help. If we still feel remorse for past sins, we need to ask for God’s forgiveness. If we have done so, we need to then trust that we are forgiven. To believe that God can’t forgive us, that our sin is too great, is not to trust in God’s mercy and love. We need to also forgive ourselves and anyone else who may have contributed to our bad decisions. None of this is easy. Forgiveness is one of the hardest things we have to do in life, but it is necessary. With God’s help, we need to let go of our hurts and our anger. Only then are we truly free to move forward.

One other important thing to remember is that there is nothing so bad that God can’t bring some good out of it. God always has a plan B. To stay mired in our regret is to not believe that God is all-powerful and that He wants what is best for us. It may take a different shape than what was originally intended, but there is good in our future. We just need to be open to it. When we are stuck in our past, we can’t be fully open to the blessings God has in store for us. We need to trust in God.

Copyright 2010 Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur


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  1. Patrice, this reflection is very timely for me in that I am aware these days of some missed opportunities for growth as a person and as a follower of Christ. While I usually don’t dwell on the past decisions, having a “made the best decsision I could at the time” attitude, I am currently more aware of what you highlighted in your writing. I find it very helpful in particular that you gave a reference to St. Paul who more than most could have wallowed in the tragedy of his earlier ways. I think I need to go back and read both Phillipinans as well as some other of his letters for some much needed direction. Please know your work is extremely valuable to me and that I appreciate your thoughtful insights.

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