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Living With Regrets

Gail Oliver Cambridge | September 1, 2022

A friend recently passed away after a terrible illness. In the months prior to his death, he contacted folks he had wronged to ask for their forgiveness. Feeling forgiven is pivotal for anyone who wants to leave this earth in peace and with a clear conscience.

Author Bronnie Ware worked in palliative care and later wrote about her experience in the book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. She stated that the top deathbed regrets are:

  • "I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me."

  • "I wish I hadn't worked so hard."

  • "I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings."

  • "I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends."

  • "I wish that I had let myself be happier."

In reading the list above, are you nodding your head as one or two resonates with you? Many of us are living with regrets that can range from missing out on opportunities and living in the shadows to ruining relationships and letting “the one” get away.

While feelings of sadness, disappointment, shame, self-blame, and other negative emotions can keep us hostage, author Daniel Pink believes that, when utilized, regret can guide, motivate, and inspire us to make better choices. Some people say that they don’t have any regrets but they’re probably not acknowledging them as such and instead are following Pink’s advice.

I have made bad decisions despite weighing the pros and cons…go figure. Whenever I’ve reflected on my regrets, I wonder what choosing the other door would have manifested in my life. However, I try not to get hung up on that, but appreciate where I am at this present time.

We must not allow our regretful actions to consume us, leaving us in a constant state of sadness, anger, or bitterness, especially for something we may not be able to correct. If we hurt someone (or others hurt us), we should reach out to make amends or choose to forgive, or if unable to connect with that person, journal our feelings or talk about them with someone else—and sooner rather than later.

Let’s face it, we probably cannot rectify the initial wrong, but we can find other ways to atone. We mustn’t let our past cripple us, poison our current relationships, or stifle our joy of living. No one wants to be around anyone who’s stuck in the past.

I have heard of people who were spiritually transformed, changing their lives of crime to that of serving Christ. They, along with the Apostle Paul, who had wreaked havoc before his conversion, certainly know how to free themselves of the regret bondage. We can certainly learn from them. As the Apostle Paul noted:

No, dear brothers, I am still not all I should be, but I am bringing all my energies to bear on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God is calling us up to heaven because of what Christ Jesus did for us. (Philippians 3:13-14 TLB)


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