As we get older, we reflect back on certain decisions that we make. Who we choose in our closest relationships. Marriages that may have been infatuation. Careers that initially held lots of promise but now appear to be stuck in quicksand. Locking ourselves into long term commitments that twist our minds with worry and cause health problems.
Welcome to the world of regret.
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve said something off the top of mind that seconds later I wish I could roll back into my mouth. Or left a job in the middle of the day, screaming at my boss because I’ve gone for hours without making a sale. Usually this happens when I’m not fully focused on the conversation at hand, not processing information from the person and in such a hurry to seemingly get to a conflict resolution I will act not out of love or concern but more out of impulsivity and frustration. I don’t like those times when anger meets anger or hurtful words meets other hurtful words.
The bottom line in those instances remains what actions you take next to rectify any mistakes or errors in judgement you made. Once you’ve said or done something, can you really take it back? Does it make it any better to try and clarify what you were thinking? I’ve found that keeping the remedy simple remains the most effective manner to build trust back in that course of action. Admitting that you are sorry for the hurtful words or actions and reassuring the person that this will not happen again is a start- then follow through with the appropriate future plan. Understand that it may take some time to build back the faith and trust from that person- you can’t force good vibrations to come back to make the relationship harmonious.
What brought this topic to mind is the interesting dynamics that my daughters are experiencing with their birth mothers. My youngest daughter received a phone call the other day from her birth mother. My wife got the chance to speak to her extensively. There are days that she feels enormous regret for what she put her daughter through, and there are other days where she regrets giving her up for adoption but knows that was the best thing she could do in that situation. My oldest daughter wrestles in her head with wanting a visit with her birth mother, but protecting herself from the fact that they really don’t know each other too well as there have been 7 plus years between their last physical visit. She often regrets not keeping closer, and wonders why we never really get upset at her wanting contact with her birth mother. How can we be so understanding of this extended family dynamic?
I reassure both of them that when the time is right and they are both personally ready, their birth parents will be there for support, guidance and hopefully give them the answers to questions they seek knowledge of to come to terms with their past. I don’t know if they’ll get all of the information they seek. We all want to feel we belong, and we all want to know that we are loved. I regret not being in their lives earlier to intercede and provide an even better childhood than the one they are receiving now. If I could snap my fingers in an instant and change all the pain, all the fear, all the sadness, all the fights, all the police intervention, all the anger, and all of the adult decisions they had to make when they were not fully formed to make, I would.
But I can’t. I can only deal in the here and now and build bridges to a healthy adulthood for them.
When it comes to regrets, don’t dwell on your mistakes as much as you can learn from them. If you are quick to lash out at others with words when they hurt your feelings, next time take a step back and think before you speak. If it takes you a little while to compose your thoughts, that’s perfectly acceptable. Maybe you need to walk out of the room, do some deep breathing and clear your head. It’s better to respond rationally than react emotionally.
Ultimately, forgive yourself when it comes to regret. We can not change the past, we only move forward and seek guidance and support to live a good life today, one day at a time. As we take the right action, the path becomes clearer and easier to know what you need to do tomorrow and all future days.