Regret! A word far too familiar for anyone prone to anxiety. Are you sometimes pulled into the past through recurring memories that leave you weary with distress? I know the feeling! We revisit decisions made out of blind trust, decisions made to gain approval of misleading friends, and we puzzle over decisions that seemed wise and profitable at the time but have turned our world upside down. History and all that happened ‘back there’ can recycle memories of regret from the past until even the future looks pretty dismal.
Here’s the best tip I can offer about rewriting history. It cannot be done, so stop trying. This is one form of recycling that’s entirely futile and has no salvageable value. We can do one thing with the past. Learn from it! What is done, is over. We have to move on – we must move on or our futures will look like the past. But first, some clean-up. These acts will help forge a path to a more optimistic future while learning to live beyond life of the past.
Forgive yourself for shortcomings, bad decisions, selfish acts, being argumentative, living a less than honorable lifestyle, whatever it is can be resolved – with effort and with determination. Ask God to forgive you – and He will forgive completely. Jeremiah 50:20 says, “I will forgive so completely that their sin and guilt will disappear, never to be found.” I’ve had to ask others to forgive me and it was uncomfortable, embarrassing, and in its own way – almost debilitating. But the outcome was one more layer of anxiety stripped away. Anxiety will be overwhelming if there is no forgiveness, but forgiveness is liberating. I like what Corrie ten Boom says in her book, The Hiding Place “Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.”
My heart’s desire is to live so uprightly and flawlessly that I never have to say I’m sorry to myself or anyone else, but that isn’t the case. My goal is to always be growing toward the light so I make good decisions and don’t have to deal with regret. John 11:9 has this to say “Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world.” Regrets of the past seem dark to me. With the right light the future looks a whole lot brighter. One of the major remedies for regret is doing life with the God. Psalm 119:104, 105 “I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path. Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”
Do you have regrets? Someone told me once to write out my regrets in a journal then months later go back and read them to see if I’ve made progress. That advice didn’t work for me. As I started to read what I had written in the past, I immediately realized the mistake. In regurgitating things I had resolved back there were making my now dark and all those dreaded feelings of regret overwhelmed me again. That practice might work for some people, but it doesn’t work for me. I believe God when he says, “I forgive completely.” Here’s what I practice now. I write out my regrets like they are prayers to God. I pour all the pain, tears, and negativity from my heart to the page – then I put the pages into the bag where we keep papers we later burn in our pit. If you don’t have a burn pit, use a shredder, or tear the pages and throw them into your trash and cover them with coffee grounds.
Psalm 120:1 says, I call on the Lord in my distress, and he answers me. And in the New Testament, Jesus invites us to give our burdens to him. “Come to me, all who are weary and troubled with anxiety and I will take your burden from you and give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 With that rest, peace as Paul tells us in Philippians 4:7 “let the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
Escaping Anxiety Tools for a Peaceful Life
- Focus on Philippians 4:8-9 – think on things that bring peace
- Protect your first part of the day; protect your last part of the day
- Learn from the past – no regrets
Do you have regrets? We all do. Listen to Matthew West sing, Hello My Name is Regret.