Posted by: LucidMystery | February 11, 2009

The Moment of Regret

How often have you been in the middle of something and realized “This was a really bad idea”? The moment may be subtle and weak, or strong and stomach-turning. Either way, if you’re like me, those moments probably come fairly often. The summer I graduated from high school, that moment hit me as I drove down a back-country rode, blaring my music and oblivious to the world–until I noticed the flashing red and blue lights in my rearview mirror. I learned that speeding was a very bad idea. A few years later, a few friends and I climbed through dumpster grossness to retrieve a beat-up, five-foot tall bunny made out of plaster and chicken wire. As my two accomplices noticed cuts on their ankles from grody glass shards in the dumpster, my first thought was “Hmm, maybe that wasn’t the brightest thing we’ve ever done.” Over a year later, me and another group of people were ticketed for a midnight swim in Alum Creek Reservoir. Definitely not the smoothest move. On the whole though, my moments of “doke!” generally aren’t that bad. Usually they’re a result of bad planning (really should have brought more tampons with me) or no planning (I didn’t actually mean to say that out loud), and I’m stuck with a generally short-lived situation of either embarrassment or annoying but painless repercussion.

Most of this train of thought just came from the movie Atonement. If you haven’t seen it, a little girl wrongly accuses a man of rape, and his life (and that of her sister who was in love with him) is essentially ruined because of it. As the years go by and the girl realizes what she did, she feels enormous guilt and regret for actions, but in essence it’s too late to do anything about it. Of course, the movie is also set during World War II, so you have the added pain of watching tormented soliders and nurses, and all of the heart breaking emotion of mortality. In the end, I bawled. Sobbed. Wept. Every other synonym you can think of. You’re torn between wanting to keep on hating the girl’s character for what she did and feeling sorry for her adult self who never got live a day without the haunting of her mistake. It’s a good movie. But in the end, you have to face that regret can never undo a hurt or take back a wrong.

I suppose this is the point where I have admit that I was half -lying earlier. I do have regrets outside the world of youthful stupidity, obviously. Of course I try to be an overall “nice” person, but I know there are many people whom I have hurt, and there are probably others that I don’t know about. Even beyond that, I second guess myself like crazy, if nothing else I wonder about choices I made in life. I regret the times I ignored my younger cousin, not understanding how she had been shaped by domestic violence; I regret that I used to make fun of Esha’s inability to properly say her R’s as a kid; I regret the way I handled my first relationship; I regret the second-best shelf I always put God on; I regret the hundreds of times I have immediately voiced my opinion without stopping to think how it sounds; I regret all the times as a kid when I let people tell me what shallow, nitpicky crap they thought was wrong with me; and I regret that I believed them and let it shape me.

But with some of these heavier issues in life, when does the moment of regret come? Why does it seem to take so much longer? When I got caught speeding, there was an acute moment of instantaneous regret. I heard the siren, I saw the lights, I thought “Crap.” There really wasn’t a time lapse in there. But sometimes, it seems to take years for you to realize what you’ve done and let the regret sink in. And at that point, there really is only so much you can do.

But to an extent, a little regret might save you in the future.

I’ve heard some people say they want to live life with no regrets, and I just can’t figure that one out. How can you live life with no regrets? You can live without guilt. God can take that away the moment you put your trust in Him, but maybe it’s the regret that keeps you from doing the same thing again.

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