Regrets. It’s such a simple word that holds so many meanings but it appears to be a word of self-reflection.
I consider that most regrets stem from the things we didn’t do, rather than the things we did do. Regardless of the life we’ve lived, whether we struggled with addiction, depression or have had a substantial amount of time in recovery, it turns out that most people regret the same things.
I think people who have been through what we have been through or how we have felt will always be hard on ourselves. Often, I have found myself saying “I wish I hadn’t” or “if only” and so on. But like so many of us I’m sure we acted with the right intentions at that specific point in our lives.
I could have done so much better
As a father, I wish I could have done better but I could only do what I could with the resources available or with the opportunities I had. As a partner I could, it feels, only fire fight by trying to keep things under control.
I’m sure many of us know the feeling of trying to spin plates by keeping everything in some form of order whilst dealing with outside issues. It’s difficult but it doesn’t require regrets. It actually requires stamina and we all get tired at some point.
Of course, on reflection I regret having found myself in that relationship but let’s be clear. No one comes with a label. Furthermore, no one sets out to say, ‘let’s give it a go although it may end up being the worst experience of my life’.
If we all did that I wonder what kind of world we would live in. We may never venture out of the house in case we get run over. We might not get dressed in case our clothes clash or match someone in the office.
I briefly touched upon this train of thought in This Is My Advice, when I mentioned Nietzsche. His philosophy has stuck with me since I first read him many years ago. He devised the idea that we need to have bad experiences to appreciate the good. As a result, I have now learnt to embrace these regrets although I don’t want to go out and find myself repeating them.
We only seem to have regrets when we are reminded of what we have been through. There are times I regret not telling certain people what I thought of them. But the reality is that either someone else will tell them at some point. Or, they may be so up their own backside that whatever I may have said would not have penetrated their thick skulls anyway. Some people may call it karma I just call it time. All good things come to those who wait.
As a student many years ago, I was often told to reflect on things I had seen, done or experienced. I found this whole concept a complete waste of time as I considered that if I was doing my best at that specific moment how could I consider improving.
But I’m going to give this idea a new, more logical explanation. If I found myself in a similar situation would I handle things differently? What if I had different opportunities at that specific moment, would I still take those chances? Have I changed my views on things?
Where was the opportunity?
The reality however, is not as rosy as the romantic idea of everything being in its place. To explain this better I consider that many things are actually out of our control. If there had been better support for men in these situations then I may have had more opportunities available to me. If the police were more proactive with complaints then issues may have been resolved better. If the person was more willing to comprehend what I was telling her then she may have addressed her own failings. We will just never know because those options were not available at that moment (and may never be).
My regret is that I think I had too much faith in a failing system rather than finding myself in that position in the first place.
Reactive over proactive
I have spoken to a few people about regrets but the common denominator is based around reaction rather than being pro-action. Time and time again we may have forgiven or developed an explanation for other people’s actions (I know I have) but it is important not to judge everyone by the nasty experiences we have had by one person.
Of course, I now recognise the signs better and I am now in a position to question my first thoughts. But I have no regrets about my experiences. I only have regrets for other people or other agencies. I regret that there is no greater support but that’s not my fault. I regret not divulging more information (but when I did very few differences were made). Ultimately, I regret having too much faith in a system that did not work. But what is most frustrating is that the system doesn’t want to improve because it does not see (conveniently) its own failings.
Different strokes for different folks
Following my experiences, I have uncovered fake people. But equally I have also met and spoken to some of the most amazing people that I would never have had the opportunity to speak to otherwise. So a regret seems to have its own rewards. I am also equally happy not to forgive other people for their actions – pity is much more appropriate (see my blog on; forgiveness – why should you?)
Yes, I do regret many things. I regret things from my childhood but I was too young to have dealt with it at that moment. I regret telling my children off about certain things, but they have grown into fantastic people. I regret being in an abusive relationship but I have learnt self-worth and what is right from wrong. Surely these must be positive outcomes from poor experiences.
No regrets just lessons learnt
I have read that an abuser is never sorry. Do they ever have regrets about people that they’ve damaged or hurt? Even if they won’t admit it to other people do they feel sorry for the way they treated other people? I very much doubt it.
But I refuse to carry the burden of regret for people who do not see the errors of their own ways. Why should we? Life is and can be difficult as it is without trying to explain and justify your actions when dealing with a situation that you had not intended to find yourself in.