I lose count of the number of times I have sermonised someone, who’s beating himself (or herself) up over some decision or action of theirs, with my favourite one liner- Forget the mistakes, remember the lessons. Why? Because we outlive our mistakes so unless we learn to walk past them, they will impede our progress, they will not allow us to learn the lessons that we must, to be able to live a fuller life.

Most of my students and now my daughter, have heard it, once too often, but I still insist on repeating it every single time till they learn to stop wallowing in regret. Every decision we make, at that point of time, seems to be in our best interest. If we knew that it would backfire, why would we do it in the first place? So learn to be kind to yourself and stop bullying yourself for every mistake that you make. If you spend too much time remembering the mistakes and regretting them, life doesn’t give you enough time to learn the lessons. And then you just end up in a destructive cycle of regret and failure because you’ve completely skipped the learning part.

Every experience, every mistake has the potential to make you bitter or better they say, but regret just leaves you with an after taste of that bitterness… a bitterness that lingers on and comes in the way of enjoying anything else. It strips you of your confidence and paralyses you from making any decision for the fear of its consequences.

There is another reason, probably the worst one, why I say regret is a waste of time and there’s only as much time you can and should allocate to it. Because it absolves you of the responsibility of the consequences. It is a shell of disappointment that tempts you to crawl into and try to escape… a pair of crutches to help you hobble across the mess. But the mess isn’t going to clean itself up…. you can’t wish it away. You have to get down on your knees, get your hands dirty and mop it up.

It’s not possible to completely obviate regret from our lives. Regret is like a rear-view mirror, you can occasionally check on it but you can never rely on it completely. Unless you focus on the road ahead there’s no way to steer your way through life.

And remember regret and repentance are two very different things even though the dictionary says that they are synonyms. They are not, you cannot replace repentance with regret, not in real life. Regret is a passive emotion while repentance is DOING something actively about that regret. So repent if you must, but regret… spare yourself the agony.

So next time you have the temptation to sit and mope in the corner for something that has gone wrong remind yourself not to regret so much lest your biggest regret should be living in one!

Dr. Shivani Salil

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