Above you see a picture of Tempe Town Lake at sunset. I took this photo some time ago as I was walking about taking in all that the moment had to offer. There was something about this moment that I felt needed to be captured and I apologize for not being able to specify what exactly it was. Time has passed and even now I see this picture and remember the calming effect this exact moment had on me. Life indeed is a series of moments and I am happy I was able to capture this exact one for you to see. Proceeding with the concept that life is just a series of moments, I would now like to abruptly segue into this blogs topic… regret.

Inevitably we’ve all experienced some form of regret. Perhaps we stayed up too late one evening, perhaps we spent too much at the store, how will we manage our day when we’ve overbooked our calendar, why did we agree to complete that job for our boss when we knew we couldn’t do it, how many times will we promise our significant other something knowing full well they will only be disappointed by our results, and why did we agree to drive when gas is so expensive? A very human feeling is regret. I’m inclined to believe that the average person feels regret when things happen outside of their control. The intention was there however the plan was not and thus failure that led to regret. So, is regret something that happens in hindsight? Do we regret things because we know better after the fact and feel that perhaps if we did… who knows. This post isn’t a solution. It’s a question and that question is simple… Why?

The answer to this question has the potential to unburden every negative feeling you’ve had due to regret! Think about why you feel regret for just a moment or two. What was the intent of your actions that resulted in a feeling of regret? Where you seeking selfishly or was your heart in the right place with the wrong plan? Perhaps you made a decision in haste and later discovered with more information that you would’ve decided differently. I don’t have all the answers, no one does. I merely call you forward to question the reason you feel regret and maybe, JUST MAYBE, once you discover the intent of your actions you might realize the regret you feel you shouldn’t feel at all.

Soren Kierkegaard, a Danish writer who was known for his work in philosophy and psychology up into the year of 1855 wrote, “I see it all perfectly; there are two possible situations – one can either do this or that. My honest opinion and my friendly advice is this: do it or do not do it – you will regret both.”

One Reply to “20/20”

  1. I wholeheartedly agree with the spirit of Kierkegaard’s passage, and your argument also calls to mind Aristotelian virtue theory and moderation. Regret has been painted in such negative light; I would argue that not only is it essential to our growth as moral human beings it is (or can be) a virtue.
    In hindsight, as you pointed out, we often experience those feelings of “what if I had…” or “if I had only…,” but isn’t the fact that we are writing that internal monologue virtuous in itself? Between the extremes of wrongful self-incrimination and downright insensitivity is regret; a point of moderation that allows us to acknowledge our imperfect world of unforeseeable odds and a desire inside ourselves to better them.
    I would even go so far as to say that your point holds true whether or not our original intention was righteous. Hindsight isn’t too late – and can still be a good thing. However it is only good as long as we do not err on the side of being too hard on ourselves and the intention of our regret is to learn, grow, and do right.
    Sometimes those feelings of regret can be a reminder that our moral compasses aren’t broken, and they might be pointing due north after all.

    Liked by 1 person

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