We often seek advice on how to live a life with no regrets. Our intentions are good. After all, who wants a life full of regrets? The intentions of the advice-givers are good, too. No one wants to see others make the same mistakes they made. However, regrets in life are inevitable, and I want to make the case that they’re actually a good thing.
You Can’t Escape Having Regrets
As much as we seek to live a life without regrets, it’s a futile goal. I remember being in my mid-twenties and thinking, “Wow, I really can’t say that I have any regrets!” But as time passed and I gained more life experience, wisdom, and perspective, the same experiences I viewed without regret became regretful.
The word “regret” in the Merriam-Webster dictionary means “to feel sad or sorry about (something that you did or did not do).” To live without regret means to live without feeling sorry about anything you did or did not do. It means to have lived a flawless life. It means you made all the right decisions and wouldn’t change anything. To seek a life without regret means to seek a life of perfection.
The Bible tells us that “No one is righteous—not even one. No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one” Romans 3:10-12 (NLT). It goes on to say, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard” Romans 3:23 (NLT).
These verses tell us that no one lives a perfect life. We all sin, and sin is something to be sorry for, along with the truth that none of us are righteous, wise, or good. Therefore, we all will and should have regrets.
When Regrets Become Harmful
There’s a difference, though, between sorrow over sin and condemnation. Because Jesus came to earth and died on the cross of our sins, we should not live in condemnation over our sin. “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus” Romans 8:1 (NLT).
Regrets are harmful when we live under condemnation instead of accepting Jesus’ free gift of grace that leads to freedom.
But of course, not every regret in our lives is sin. Some decisions we regret are a result of having more information now than at the time the decision was made. We made a choice between two or more decisions, none of them sinful, but in retrospect some would have been better than others.
When I was in college I majored in early childhood education. From the time I was a little girl I wanted to be a teacher. I also wanted to one day be a mom. So I figured that teaching would be the perfect job for me. I could have time off to spend with my children, I liked children, and it was something I always wanted to do.
But I never prayed about that decision. I just assumed that because I wanted to do it I should do it. And I never researched whether teaching matched my gifts and talents. Two years into my career, after graduating from college and graduate school with teaching degrees, I regretted becoming a teacher. However, at the time I made the best decision with the information I had. My decision wasn’t sinful, it just wasn’t the wisest one.
Regrets are harmful if they cause us to dwell on the past.
Isaiah 42:18 (NIV) says, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.”
Paul also tells us in Philippians 3:13-14 (NLT), “No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”
Why Regrets in Your Life are a Good Thing
We’ve determined that regrets are unavoidable, we will and should have regrets, and regrets are harmful if we don’t view them with a proper perspective.
However, with the right perspective regrets in your life are a good thing.
[Tweet “Regrets humble us and show us our need for Jesus. “]
I’m reminded from the Bible of all the people whose regret led them to stronger relationships with God. David, Jonah, and Paul are just a few who come to mind, but there are countless others. Anything God uses to draw us closer to Him is an example of His love for us. This truth allows us to rejoice in our regrets because they draw us closer to Jesus.
[Tweet “Regrets remind us of God’s love, grace, and faithfulness. “]
Regrets show us God’s character of love, grace, and faithfulness. We will all have regrets. But there is nothing we do or don’t do that’s beyond God’s redemption. Romans 8:28 (NIV) says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
So let’s remember our regrets as deeds of the Lord, as miracles. “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago” Psalm 77:11 (NIV).
Regrets give us wisdom to teach others.
One of the benefits of regrets is that they give us wisdom so that we can teach others from our mistakes.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV).
How to Keep Regrets to a Minimum
Even though we can leverage regrets to glorify God and serve others, we’re also called to be wise and prudent. Regrets being a good thing does not mean that we should make haphazard decisions. Our goal should still be to make the wisest decisions possible.
We can keep regrets to a minimum by:
- having a consistent prayer life
- reading the Bible regularly
- surrounding ourselves with friends who are growing believers
- seeking a mentor relationship with an older woman
- being transparent and honest with friends, mentors, and yourself
Our goal should not be to live a life without regrets. Instead our goal should be to live a life that glorifies God.
When glorifying God is our goal, we will automatically eliminate many regrets.
But when regret inevitably comes, let’s look at it as a good thing. Let’s see it as something that humbles us, reflects God’s grace, and gives us another opportunity to teach others of God’s wisdom.