Lesson Four: Understand Regret and Enable Forgiveness

This lesson is divided into two parts, learning how to release regret and forgive ourselves. Regret holds us back and can stop us from trying again. Once we learn to forgive ourselves, we can let go of so much pain that we have been holding onto. We are fallible beings, prone to mistakes. That is not something for which we need to feel shame.

Regret and remorse have been such powerful emotions in my life. These keep me stuck in the past, unable to move forward or enjoy my journey. I have an unhealthy habit of living in my head, in the past. Whether it’s something that happened a few days ago or years ago, some experiences have been difficult to release.

Holding on to regret will stop you from healing. The ability to let go of what no longer serves us is extremely important in our healing process.


Part One: The Power of Regret

During a summer not too long ago, I was mired in regret after allowing all the negatives of life to become more important than the positives.

One of my favorite cousins died, one of my sisters was in the hospital and two acquaintances attempted suicide. This was on top of the stress I felt about more “simpler” problems. I felt sad, unloved and overwhelmed. My reaction was to overreact to something a friend did. Instead of talking to my friend, I allowed my pain to grow out of proportion and I lashed out. Basically, I was a jerk. Of course, in my head at the time this friend was at fault. I had built up every little thing they did and said into a mountain of hurt and I was the victim. I wallowed there so long that we didn’t talk for a few weeks and then I felt so much sadness at the thought of losing them. That’s when the pain became extra strong. “Wasn’t it bad enough to lose my cousin? How could I lose my friend too!” I started thinking about the situation and reviewing my actions.

Slowly the clouds cleared and I could see that this friend had not actually done anything to deserve how I treated them.

I understood that I was choosing to react to life in an unhealthy way. In a way that I had promised myself I wouldn’t do anymore. Once again, I was stuck in old patterns. I went from sadness and grief from all the pain of the summer to a much more inward feeling of disappointment and shame. Looking back, it was obvious to me that if I had taken the chance to communicate in the beginning none of this would have happened! In my search for healing I found a very helpful meditation video on regret that guided me through such a difficult time. It’s called Meditation on Regret and Self Forgiveness and is on YouTube. Here are the insights I received from the video:

Part One:

  1. What did I feel at the time of this regretful situation? Sadness, anger and fear.
  2. Was there malice or intent attached to it? No, I wasn’t trying to be mean. I felt victimized.
  3. Why am I attached to it? Because it feels so wrong and unnecessary.
  4. How can I let go of expectations? I can communicate with others instead of expecting them to somehow understand what I need or feel.

Part Two:

  1. Is there a permanent negative impact on my life and others? Maybe, but I don’t feel like there is.
  2. Why is the regret still with me? Because it was an awful way to act.
  3. Can I remedy the situation now in the present? Yes, I can apologize and reconcile with my friend.
  4. If not, how can I apply lessons to live consciously, accept it and move forward so I don’t repeat this regret? If they don’t want to accept my apology than I can be conscious of how I treat people now and in the future. I can stay aware of when I’m not communicating and I can improve healthy communication skills.

Luckily, I was able to apologize to my friend, who responded positively, and let go of the regret rather easily, but it could have ended differently. That friend could have easily stopped associating with me.  What that summer taught me is that I really am in control of how I react to real or perceived threats. I obviously have to stay aware of my inclination to not communicate and my habit of living in the past.

I refuse to live in the past because regret is an easy way to avoid lessons and accountability. I want to own up to my actions. Regret creates untrue thoughts that the current situation will never change. I’ve been alive long enough to know this isn’t true. Everything constantly changes, including me. Please remember that regret is born from knowing now what you didn’t know then. Be self-compassionate.  When you are faced with regret take it as an opportunity to reflect on whether your actions line up with your beliefs.

Action:

Answer the following question and then use the eight steps below to practice forgiving yourself.

What is something I regret from my past and what is something I regret more recently?

  1. What did I feel at the time of this regretful situation?
  2. Was there malice or intent attached to it? 
  3. Why am I attached to it?
  4. How can I let go of expectations?
  5. Is there a permanent negative impact on my life and others?
  6. Why is the regret still with me?
  7. Can I remedy the situation now in the present?
  8. If not, how can I apply lessons to live consciously, accept it and move forward so I don’t repeat this regret?

Write this in your journal.


 

Part Two: Forgive Yourself

There are times when my inner child comes out and she is a sarcastic brat. Other times I can be flippant and unsympathetic to another person’s pain. I am not a perfect being. If I was you wouldn’t be reading this book. We all make mistakes, sometimes giant ones that totally change the course of our life and others. Sometimes we make small mistakes that can hardly create a ripple in our life. It’s okay to make mistakes. A major part of our life journey is about learning. Think of how you easily forgive others for their mistakes. Why not show yourself the same compassion?

Action:

Repeat the following sentence until you believe it!

 “I AM WORTHY OF FORGIVENESS, INNER PEACE AND ABUNDANCE.”

 You really are. So please be gentle with yourself. Accept the humility of failure. You need to live in the present. Allow yourself to make mistakes and forgive yourself for not knowing any better. We are all perfectly imperfect.


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