Why regrets are a waste of time

It’s that time of year when we look back at the year that has passed and wonder. Did we accomplish what we wanted? Did we read the books on our to-read list? Exercised as much as we had planned? Lost the weight we had gained the Christmas before? Spent as much time with God as we wanted to?

It’s that time of year where we may feel regret because we didn’t do what we had planned to do, because we tried but didn’t even come close, because well, we failed. Big time.

When we are confronted with our failings, our mistakes, our shortcomings, experiencing regret is natural. It’s those coulda/woulda/shoulda thoughts that keep you awake at night.

It's those coulda/woulda/shoulda regrets that keep you up at night....

Yet spending too much time on regrets is useless, because regrets are a big waste of time. It won’t help you to regret the things that you didn’t do or the stupid things that you did, because you can’t change the past. I know that sounds like the biggest cliché ever, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s also true. You can’t change the past, so regretting the past won’t help you. Here’s what will help you as you look back and are confronted with where you fell short:

1. Remorse

Regret won’t help you, but remorse will. Confess your sins and shortcomings to God and where necessary to others. Make amends wherever possible with people you may have hurt. If you had planned to spend more time with your family for instance but failed to actually do so, admit your failure in this area to your spouse and kids. It will go a long way in mending things.

Don’t ever forget that God is a God of second, third and even hundred-and-thirty-fourth chances…No matter how many times you have failed, He will always welcome you with open arms!

2. Analyze

Regret won’t help you, but analyzing what went wrong will. If you had planned to prepare your sermons way more in advance but found yourself writing them the day before, what was the cause? Did you forget to put it on your to do list? Did you set the wrong priorities? Did you let yourself get distracted by other seemingly important activities?

Analyzing what went wrong in the execution of your plans will help you improve your methods to increase chances of succeeding the next time.

3. Learn

Regret won’t help you, but you can learn from your mistakes. Remember the old rodeo slogan: it’s not how many times you fall off, it’s how many times you get back on.

After you’ve spent some time analyzing what went wrong, now make a plan to help you succeed next time. Often, this will have to do with changing your habits, something we will go into more detail on in tomorrow’s post called How to make your New Year’s Resolutions last longer than February.

There’s a famous French singer called Edith Piaf whose biggest hit was called ‘Non, je ne regrette rien’ (no, I don’t regret anything). The song is about having peace with your past and not spending time having regrets. If you’re making New Year’s Resolutions anyway, why not decide to make this your motto for 2012? Non, je ne regrette rien…

Comments

  1. says

    I wonder how much teenagers understand grace in these understanding. Do they know that they are forgive? Regret is such a time waster for Christians, as you said, and I agree that we need to move on. Unfortunately, sometimes it is harder than expected.

    • Rachel says

      I agree that we should teach grace much more to our young people. I also think we can make regret worse by making some sins worse than others, for instance sexual sins. I’ve known many students who really wrestled with regret after having gone too far, because they honestly thought God wouldn’t forgive that sin…

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