Tuesday, December 5, 2017

REGRET is a Useless Emotion Unless...

It Prompts to Do Better Going Forward


I’ve heard actors and musicians say they don’t care to look at their own performances because they cringe at how they did something they should have done differently. For writers, the printed first edition can yield a similar emotion. There is much we’d change, rephrase, or cut. Now it’s set, and we can’t.



Life is like that. Once something has passed, regret can take over about the many things that we could’ve and maybe should’ve, and now we can’t do over.


I know people who are raked with regrets. It’s a useless loop that serves to paralyze. The functional among us “let it go,” which usually means we try to forget and move on.


But forgetting, while serving the purpose of getting the wheels to move, isn’t the best way. For my own process, there were times I wished I could be as good at forgetting as many people I have known. There’s at least one typo in each of my published books that gnaws on me, and I can’t do a thing about it. There are chapters in my life I would never “do” the same way.


I found a way to mentally handle these sorts of cant’-fix ‘em. I am not a Catholic, but I borrowed it from the Catholic confession, when at the end the priest says, “Now go and sin no more.” This echoes Jesus’ saying. (John 8, 11) The brilliance of confession is not the telling, or the penance. It’s an awareness combined with learning from mistakes and resolving to not repeat.


Nothing wasted— if we learn from it.


I will look at my performance. I will stare at these typos and awkward phrasings. I will remember where I dropped the ball. Then I will resolve to pay attention and to try not to repeat. Of course, I will repeat. But maybe not the same mistakes or sins, and maybe I will catch them earlier when I can fix something. It’s a process, and a mighty beneficial one.

In this way, regret becomes useful.

15 comments:

  1. For those who believe in God, the gift of forgiveness is definitely one of his greatest gifts to us. It still doesn't nullify what you're saying about learning from our mistakes and trying not to repeat them. God is much more willing to forgive me than I'm willing to forgive myself, so, yes, striving to do better is a worthwhile outcome.

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    1. Amen, sister.
      I honestly don't know what G-d thinks or if I'm forgiven. But I sure am far from godliness, because I am hard on myself. For me the key is to make it good going forward, for our time in the world of action, here, is short.

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    2. I feel your pain today, Mirka. Piggybacking on Ev's comment, God indeed thinks the world of you. He made you, and He forgives you.
      1 John 1:9 But those typos aren't YOUR responsibility, IMO. Copy editor's, perhaps?

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    3. Well, the typos originate with me. But the point is to live and learn moving forward. (True even if this saying is a cliché.)

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  2. Mirka, such wise words. True regret comes with repentance with the desire to amend one's life, including the writing life.

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  3. Well said, as always. I felt a lot of regret and guilt when I was married. I left most of it behind when I got divorced.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. That's another way to deal with "moving on" ;)

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  4. Life is a learning experience, right? Failures are opportunities to learn and get stronger.

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    1. And not to repeat wrongs ad nauseam. Learning also includes what was worth repeating. I have many life-chapters that I have no regrets about. I'd do it again just that way. But not everything.

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  5. Yup, life is nothing but one big learning curve - keeps us young, right?

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    1. Learning and re-positioning is a youngish thing to do, so I guess as long as we do... "We're still alive." (Paraphrasing my grandma, who no longer is.)

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  6. I sometimes regret things I should have said or done, as well as worrying about the future. One of the reasons I need to take time to live in the present moment, which for me is easier said than done. I have yet to read my books once they're published, much too risky. :)

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    1. I know of other writers who say they never read their published books.

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