How “I Wish I Had” Can Become “I’m Glad I Did”

Regret pic IMG_7088I should have…

Why did I…?

If only…

If you can complete any of the above phrases you have them: Regrets.

We all have a few. Some of us have many. None of us want any.

This time of year lends itself to feelings of regret.

  • Why did I eat that?
  • I should have gone to the gym.
  • If only I hadn’t gotten myself in debt over the holidays.

You know the drill.

Some regrets are minor, some are major. All regrets have the potential for making us feel defeated—the lovely emotion I call “yuck”.

Yuck can keep us stuck.

Unless we are healthy in the way we process it.

But, if handled well, yuck can motive us to get out of the muck and get unstuck. (ok, enough rhyming for one blog post).

Too many of us view our regrets as fails. But our regrets aren’t fails—they are falls. While a fail is permanent, a fall is temporary. You can get up from a fall and try again. You can regroup, recover and re-do.

When I view regret as a fail rather than a fall it prevents me from moving forward, trying new things or making lasting change. But when viewed through the lens of a fall, my regrets become a chance to dust myself off and move forward.

Placed in the hands of God my regrets can be redeemed. They really can.

So how do you prevent past regret from high-jacking the promise of a purposeful future? And how do you live now so you won’t have regrets then?

  1. Make Thing Right

No matter how deep we try to bury them, relational regrets don’t die. Eventually they get resurrected. All it takes is a memory. A chance meeting. A conversation. A conflict. And the feelings of yucky regret come washing over us.

Several years ago I had words with one of my kiddos on the way to church. I parked the car in the church parking lot; she sulked into youth group, I into the sanctuary. But all the while regret gnawed at my soul, devouring my peace. I couldn’t listen. I couldn’t worship. I couldn’t focus.

All I could think was “why?”

Why did I say those things?

Why did I handle the situation that way?

Why didn’t I listen more and talk less?

And I was filled with regret.

In an effort to silence the feelings of regret, I could have justified my words (she had it coming). I could have excused my words (I’m doing the best I can—I’m not perfect). Both responses had elements of truth. But neither had the power to permanently remove my regret and restore our injured relationship.

Here’s what I know: Things will never be right if my relationships are wrong.

After the service, I found my daughter and apologized for my part in our conflict on the spotYou know what happened? I was flooded with peace.

Regret is removed when we make things right.

Can we always make things right? No. But if we can, we should. It’s the surest path to a regret-free life.

  1. Do The Right Things

Much of our regret stems from knowing what we should do and not doing it.

Our actions—or inactions—lead us down one of two paths: the path of gratefulness or the path of regret. Grateful for the choice we made or regretful over it.

When we do the right things we’re left feeling empowered, motivated and energized to do more right things. When we do the wrong things—or do nothing at all—we’re left holding a bag full of “would’a, could’a, should’a”.

Again, yuck.

So, what’s your next right thing?

Don’t look ten steps ahead—that’s overwhelming. Look at one step. One step is do-able.

Years ago I was faced with a decision–not a monumental one–but, still, a decision that left me questioning what to do.  JP gave me the wisest piece of advice:

“When the day is over,what will you be glad you did?”

I’ve asked myself this simple question hundreds of time over the years. This question helps me make decisions I won’t later regret.

What choice do you need to make today?  When the day is over, which choice will you be glad you made?

Make the right choice today and you’ll end the day without regret.  Do the right thing over time and you’ll end your parenting, or your career or your marriage or your life without regret.

Will you always make choices you won’t regret?  No. But remember, it’s not a fail. It’s a fall.

Pick yourself up. Start where you left off. Tell someone about your progress. It’s hard to keep doing the right things on your own.

We all want a regret-free life. Regret-free living isn’t a path of perfection, it’s a path of persistence toward the right priorities.

A regret-free life is possible for those who chose to make things right and do the right things.

What’s your next step? Is there a relationship where you need to make things right? Is there something you know you should do but haven’t because of fear, apathy, laziness or habit? Get going! You won’t regret it.

For more inspiration to Get Healthy emotionally, spiritually and relationally, check out Donna’s Bible study and free videos at






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