“Although we can not change the past, we can learn from it and build up skills and useful insights from it. The future is that unknown world of possibilities and opportunities before us—but all we can truly have any effect upon is now.”
Evans, Hudson & Tucker (The Peaceful Arts)
Learning from the past is the only useful thing that can come out of regrets and missed opportunities. Sounds small, but it is truly huge—and unfortunately, rare. If you're anything like me, you have regrets that continue to niggle around your edges years later. That's human, but it's useless unless you find a way to convert it into new insights for right now and for the future.
For me, getting beyond regret and arriving at hope and joy is a process. It begins with remembering whatever it is that I regret, being able to take responsibility for the outcome, and admitting to myself that I wish I had not done it, that it was a mistake. And then, instead of beating myself up about it, I begin to ask some questions: Are there amends that I need to make, such as an apology? What did I learn from that incident? How can I use what I've learned to avoid doing something like that again? Are there any positive outcomes from the incident?
Character is not an inherited trait. It is built over years of trial and error. In order to build character and integrity, it is essential to make mistakes and learn from them. Some of us make mistakes and don't learn from them. We humans are creative in our defenses; we can find a million ways to make someone else responsible for our problems and a million more ways to deny there even is, or ever was, a problem. We can make our past seem completely dark, or light as a feather. We're creative geniuses, but we will make the same mistakes repeatedly if we do not learn the lesson. We will repeat them in our present, and in our future. Until we are ready to face our regrets and mistakes, bless them, and learn from them, we will carry them around like a bag of rocks.
To live in the present, to live lightly on the earth, we must put down our bag of rocks, thank them for the lessons they have taught us, and move on.
In the Spirit,