Friday, January 14, 2011

The Anatomy of Regret

So I was having a conversation with a good friend the other day, and he asked me a question that I hadn't really considered in a long time. You know, one of those questions that makes you pause, furrow your brow, and inevitably leaves you speechless because your mouth can't seem to put all the thoughts racing through your head into words. 

"If you could go back in time and change one moment that you regret, what would it be?" 

What a loaded question! And in trying to formulate an answer, a barrage of mental pictures from the last 27 years flooded my mind. In my mind's eye, I saw episode after episode of careless decisions I had made, people that I had hurt, and worse of all, people I had allowed to come into my life and hurt me. "Are you sure I can only choose one moment?" I asked, knowing this would be a nearly impossible task, considering all the dirt that I had done, and all the shady individuals I had rubbed elbows with over the years.

"Yep, just one," was his reply. I sighed heavily, trying to narrow a mountain of poor judgment calls, bad choices, destructive habits, and toxic relationships down to one single moment. For the sake of advancing the conversation, I finally gave an answer. "I regret the moment I ignored my intuition and decided to stay in a particularly unhealthy relationship just because it was comfortable and familiar."

And that was that. My friend gave his reply, and we eventually moved on to another topic of conversation, but the question nagged and tugged at my brain for days afterward. I kept thinking about all the things in my life that would've been different if I only done this, or said that. If I had only left this situation, taken that job, not developed that habit, said no to this temptation or that, not allowed certain people to enter my life, where would I be right now? I thought about all the times I had been so careless with my life and the lives of others and what the end result could have been, and I became overwhelmed. The weight of all the things I wished I could go back in time and repair became too heavy, and before I knew it the tears came. I gave myself a few minutes to cry, before deciding I'd had enough. I dried my face and got busy doing something else so that I wouldn't have to think about it any longer.

Then a funny thing happened. I went to church that Sunday, and my pastor's message was all about the assignments that God gives us for our lives, and how He can use every imperfection and shortcoming that we have to fulfill His assignment for us. I started thinking about all the many regrets that had been weighing heavily on my mind in the previous days, and in that moment God led me into a moment of epiphany. There was not a single decision, choice, relationship, or experience that I should regret. I needed every single one those moments-no matter how reckless, how painful, how dark or how destructive they may have been-to make me the woman that He has called me to be. A woman whose assignment is to change lives through education, compassion, and empowerment. It was my duty to not only embrace those imperfect and painful moments that I had come to regret, but to use them to help me connect with the many young people that I came into contact with every single day. I started to cry again, but this time my tears were tears of gratitude, thanking God for taking my ugly past and using it to create a beautiful present, and radiant future.


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