A couple of weeks ago, I saw a post on TED’s Facebook page about regret, about living with regret. I already saw this 16-minute talk by Kathryn Schulz many months ago when I binge-watched TED talks on Youtube, but only after this second time did I feel compelled to share my regret story. And, no, it’s not about one of my tattoos.
My past relationship with Jon Snow1 is the one thing I regret the most. Not because of its ill fate but because I could have kept myself from getting involved with him in the first place. And many times I had the chance to end things with him but chose not to.
Almost a year into our bad romance, he called it quits. That was in December, not really the best time to nurse a make-believe breakup. I thought it was really over but it was only the beginning of our on-again off-again dalliance.
It was undeniably blissful when we were together but those moments of fleeting happiness were not enough to overcome the bitterness that was building up inside me. Hatred grew as our ‘no-strings-attached’ setup went on for four more years. It was no secret that I was falling for him but it wasn’t reciprocated the way I wanted it to be and most of the time it seemed like he was taking advantage of my feelings for him. It’s frustrating and I hated him for it. I also envied him because he got to be the cool guy while I paid the price of our selfishness and faced the society’s judgment and bad karma.
But in spite of it all, I still didn’t want us to end.
All that hate directed at him was not even half of what I felt for myself. The wretched state I was in, it stemmed from my terrible decision-making, my credulity and idiocy.
Of course, Jon never felt any of this. He never had an idea of what I was going through. And whenever I think about that, I just hated him some more.
Hate and blame seemed to never end; it was a vicious cycle. And I resigned myself to a cursed life, hounded by the past and unworthy of happy-ever-after.
In my struggle to forget Jon and those regretful memories with him, I also failed, refused at times, to recognize that I needed to forgive myself, too, not fully understanding that forgiveness is the first step towards reconciliation with the past. I was in denial I had to forgive me for hating me.
Forgiveness is a decision. And it was only by the grace of God that I was able to let go of my anger and stop blaming myself for my miserable life. It didn’t happen overnight, though. Guilt-trip, envious thoughts and self-pity still hung out with me even after accepting Jesus as my Lord and Savior. Times like this, I would cry begging God to magically zap those negative thoughts and just numb myself from those ill feelings. He never did. But in the midst of my wallowing fits, I always found comfort in His promises and faithfulness.
I believe God does not want us to suffer from self-hate as it hinders us from forging a strong bond with Him. We end up losing faith in Him, destroying ourselves and eventually our relationship with the people around us, even with those we deeply care about.
We mess up pretty much all the time, sometimes we can ignore it, sometimes it ruins us to our very core. Pride keeps us from asking forgiveness from God, or maybe fear, but truth is, we can’t save ourselves from the sorrows of guilt and regret. God can and He is willing and always ready to forgive us. If we only let Him.
My relationship with Jon broke me. How can I not regret it? I felt so sorry for myself for falling into this trap of supposed true love with bad timing. And for quite some time, our story actually felt like something striaght out of a Robert James Waller novel. But it was nothing like it at all. Ours was an abuse of freedom, his addiction and his “love” an unintentional byproduct of a mad dash of dopamine and oxytocin.
Regret is a profound grief and many are enslaved and tormented by it. To live with regret does not mean replaying our faults in our minds over and over or forever holding ourselves responsible for screwing up our own lives. Accepting that mistakes are irreversible and choosing to forgive ourselves is making peace with regret.