[You may wish to read Parts I, II & III first.]
Moving from regret to life
There are three kinds of regret:
- It’s gone: sadness, loss, bereavement, for who and what is no longer here, or for what might have been;
- It’s me: shame and guilt for who and what I have been and done;
- It’s them: anger, bitterness and resentment for what has been done to me, and how life has worked out.
Moving from regret to life is not about throwing the past away. We don’t forget, and nor should we. “I know I’ll often stop and think about them…” I am who I am because of everything and everyone. Ubuntu.
Being able to move is about being free from the definition of your past, not being held captive by it, not letting it be your continually rehearsed and repeated factitious internal docudrama.
Theologically, it is letting yourself be from God, not from ‘them’. It is a radical change of perspective from me to You. It is to step out of your little story into God’s unimaginably big story.
In my life. I love you more.
A few thoughts on how you might release regret and learn to live:
- Be present: not that you have to be happy and having a great life, but you must be present, living now. If you are hurrying onto a receding future, then you will also tend to be hankering after an imagined past, because you are unable to live now.
- Notice: Be mindful of your thoughts and the regrets you regularly circle back to. What ‘folly’ in your life causes you to ‘sigh’?
- Acknowledge the regret you have. Accept your regret without judgment.
- Remember: Look back more consciously, with a certain distance, but don’t dwell or ruminate.
- Investigate: What is there to be learnt from past mistakes? If there has been a series of similar mistakes, what has been the common factor?
- Recognition: Come to see that regret is trapping you in the past and holding you back from living now.
- Feel into this body: Where do you feel regret? What does regret feel like? Allow yourself to feel regret in this body.
- Compassion: Be a friend to yourself. Don’t beat yourself up for your regret. You are hurting. Be kind to yourself. Let God come into this place.
- Slowly does it: Don’t rush the process. Acknowledge what you can’t relinquish and know that letting go does not happen in a minute. It is a process.
- Togetherness: Be brave and show yourself and your past to God. What would it be like if you were to show God what you cannot forgive in yourself? Take heart, be open and let God in.
- Forgiveness: In time let the forgiveness of God permeate you. Learn to forgive yourself.
- Entrust people and situations to God. How would it be to give the people of your past to God, even those you hate, knowing that you are equally loved, however difficult that is to contend? Entrust your now-and-future self to God – a radical relinquishing of control.
- Freedom: In the end, this is about freedom to step into the present and live now.
This set of steps is not to be followed slavishly. It is not a prescription. Each step is hard. It is letting go of what has become, in some way, precious to you. Remember how Frodo, having come to the end of his long journey to Mordor, carrying the enormous burden and responsibility of the Ring, held back at the very last from throwing the ring into the Crack of Mount Doom. He needed the help of the Gollum and the loss of a finger finally to be free.
You are free now in a way you have not been for some time. You can be yourself. How do you want to use that freedom? How do you want to live?
In my life, I love you more.