Our Regrets

Recently I was talking with a friend and she shared some regrets she had as a young mother. Her reaction revealed that she was still pretty hard on herself for some of the decisions she had made. Her regrets were for things that most people would think were fairly benign in the grand scheme of parenting mistakes. But I appreciated the depth of her emotions. It revealed her sensitivity to the effect this might have had on her daughter. It showed a real understanding of the difference between intent and impact.

Her tearful reaction to talking about these memories struck me deeply and has remained with me.

There are a lot of ways we typically respond when people share regrets. We say they should let it go. We tell them it wasn’t that bad. We say they shouldn’t feel bad about things. But as well-intended as those responses are, I’m not sure they honor the depth at which such feelings run within us. Some experiences just live inside us so deeply they cannot simply be extracted. And maybe they shouldn’t be.

Maybe such regrets live inside us as teachers in a way. Perhaps they are one of the sources of our wisdom and compassion.

I realized that it is these two things that staying with regrets offers: It can become the seed of compassion and empathy so that you can stand in the shoes of other people because you’re feeling exactly what they feel. And it spurs you on to help people in the future rather than hurt them.

Read the full post “Our Regrets”