Having dinner with good friends, the conversation turned to today’s “young people”. We, who are both sides of 60, were talking about those in their early 20’s, the ones just finishing college or starting jobs. We talked about their need for good mentors and how young they looked. “Did I look that young?”, I wondered out loud, “when I started my career at 22”? My wife assured me I did.
What if we could be 22 again, we wondered? “Boy, there are a few things I would have done differently.” We all agreed on that observation. But then I began to wonder, would I really have changed anything? As we talked further we wondered whether you could say, “I would have treated this person or situation differently”, without changing all of the other parts of life. In other words, had I not made this mistake in life, then I would not have been wise enough to avoid making it at another time or with another person. Or, if I had not met “Mary”, then I would never have met “Martha”. In other words, isn’t our life the sum of all of the parts, the good choices, the great decisions; the bad choices; the horrible decisions?
So what do we do with the life choices we ‘regret’? We can sing, along with Frank Sinatra, that though ‘we’ve had a few’ they are too few to mention. I am close, I think, to that school of thought. It is good to remember the choices we regret. That’s what helps us, hopefully, improve our lives, if we use the regrets as lessons. But we should not dwell upon them. The bigger danger than forgetting regrets too soon is living with them too long. While decisions last a lifetime, the regrets don’t need to.
The most underrated and least believed fact in the Bible is the truth that God remembers our sins no more. I have so many encounters with people who are dwelling in regret, in guilt, in shame, wondering how God could accept them given their ‘past.’ I believe the reason we have trouble believing that God could forgive those decisions we regret is that we cannot forgive ourselves for them. God’s ability to ‘forgive’ is based on his marvelous, grace-filled decision to forget; to accept you, to love you, just as you are, the sum of all the decisions, good, great, bad, horrible.
Can you do the same?