One time, I was traveling with a friend and we were in an antique shop. As we were looking around, I saw something I really liked and asked the shop owner how much it cost. My friend saw it, too, and asked if there was another one like it.
“Oh, it’s the last piece,” the shop owner said.
My friend sighed. She said — more to herself than to me — “Oh well. I’m running short of dollars anyway and we still have four countries to go to…”
So I quickly asked the shopkeeper to wrap it up, and paid for it. I was so happy I saw it first because it gave me the “right” to buy it. First dibs, and all that. However, when I finally got home, every time I looked at it, I remembered my friend. And I remembered my cold greed.
Then one fine day, I wrapped up the object of my cold greed and gave it to my friend, as a gift. She was surprised. “What’s the occasion?” she asked, before unwrapping it.
I said, “Oh, it’s a gift to myself, actually. To redeem myself.”
She just laughed, a bit puzzled, I’m sure. But then, she was used to my weirdness.
When she opened the gift, she squealed with delight!!! Inside me, I was squealing with delight, too! I thanked God for giving me the chance to redeem myself.
Life is filled with regrets because we are flawed, selfish people who hurt others and ourselves, in the process. But many won’t admit that they have regrets because that’s also admitting they made mistakes and have suffered the consequences.
It could be denial. Could be pride. Could be mindless living. Or the inability to process things properly.
Whatever it is, one of the biggest impediments to growth and success is refusing to learn from one’s mistakes. Regret is the first step to this kind of valuable, experiential learning.
On the other hand, it’s grossly wrong to think that we learn only when we make mistakes — ergo, make as many mistakes as you can! Ridiculous, right? Unless you’re glutton for punishment. In fact, the better way is to learn from the mistakes of others —by avoiding the mistakes they made. We can also learn from what others do right — follow their example and spare ourselves the damage caused by wrong decisions. As the adage says, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
There are times when God gives us opportunities to redeem our regrets. Consider these as times of extraordinary blessing. Never, never miss the open window that He gives you! It might never come again.
For instance, redeeming yourself as a husband or wife. Maybe you did something dreadful to your spouse. Your situation might seem hopeless. Well, starting today, you can do the right thing. Even if the damage is horrendous, redeem the situation by asking for forgiveness. Make no excuses or accusations, just take full responsibility for the wrong you’ve done. Then stop doing the wrong things you’re doing.
Whether or not you get forgiven or appreciated for what you did, the only thing that really matters is this: God has forgiven you, and knows you tried to redeem yourself by doing the right thing. While you still have to suffer the consequences, God will bless you in ways that will encourage you to keep doing what’s right.
The same redeeming grace can be released and activated in different relationships and situations where we’ve done wrong. Maybe you’ve made huge mistakes as a parent, as a son/daughter, as a sibling, as a friend, as a boss, staff, or business partner, etc. The only thing God requires from us is a genuinely repentant heart. The humility to ask for His forgiveness, and forgiveness from the ones we’ve wronged.
There’s no easy way to do it. But it can be done. Once we sincerely ask for forgiveness, God’s healing grace pours forth. It’s not a feeling. It’s a reality that has eternal rewards.
What we do with our regrets is our business. No one can make that decision but us. If it’s within our power and ability to correct what we’ve done, in whatever way, then we must take action.
The evidence of true repentance is the action we take to correct what’s wrong, to do what’s right, to recompense when possible. We can choose to redeem our regrets, and learn from them.