Power Parent Tip of The Day

In Praise of Positive Regret

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Perhaps, like me, you too have heard someone say, “I don’t regret anything in life. It’s because of everything I have been through, that I have become who I am today.” It seems stylish, trendy even, to refer to your past, not-so-pretty experiences this way.

Such a statement is deemed fair if the consequences of your decisions did not cause distress to others. The notion “I don’t regret anything in life” implies that “Regret is uncalled for”, seems to be in tandem with positive thinking, more in line with feeling good about yourself, an indication of a healthy self-esteem.

Point taken. But can we say that Regret is all bad?

Like it or not, there will always be moments when you and I did or said things which, on hindsight, we should never have.

Take a few weeks ago, for instance. It happened as I entered a large shopping centre. I caught sight of a young family with two little children, a girl and a boy, begging nearby. They looked miserable, all four of them, prompting me to think that it might be a good idea to grab something edible for them on my way out.

Then I realised I had just about enough money to buy a meal for my son, waiting for his lunch at home.

Later, I mentioned about the family to my husband. “Maybe you should have gotten them a half chicken,” he said. He had hardly finished his sentence when Regret came knocking at the door. I had hoped that my other half would say something that could lighten me up, but instead I felt none the better.

To be honest, this wasn’t the only time I wasn’t proud of myself. There have been one incident too many I wished I had acted kinder, wiser, better.

Like the time when my eldest son was little, I scolded him for knocking down a cup of water, slightly to his right on the table in front of him. I had no idea then, that my son could not see it, literally.

So, where do we go from here?

Suppose you knew your words and actions have hurt someone for no good reason, yet you say, “I don’t regret it.” This is not just idiotic, obviously, but plain irresponsible. In this case, Regret can do you good, pushing you to ask for forgiveness, act in a way to correct what is wrong.

Regret helps you to wise up in life.

Of course, too much Regret can be harmful. You could be overwhelmed with so much Regret that you loathe yourself, unable to see a single point of good that might have been created out of that experience. Too much Regret can be crippling, a downward spiral to depression, a deep dark abyss, a Point of No Return.

We need to teach our children that every emotion that God allows us to experience has a function. Regret is one of those emotions that can guide us back to behaving right, a moral compass. Regret helps ensure your child accept accountability over his negative words and actions, with the firm intention of never repeating his misbehaviour.

So, be careful what you say to your children about Regret. Don’t simply parrot what you hear others say, just because it seems fashionable or the “in-thing”.

As parents, we do not want our children to spend a lifetime wallowing in Regret over past words, actions or decisions. We must know the difference between positive and negative Regret, realise that Regret does have value and can motivate us to change for the better. The secret is to strike a healthy dose. Balance is key.

Thought of The Moment

“Not everything is perfect, especially in the beginning. And it is all right to have a a little bit of regret every once in a while. It is when you feel it all the time and can’t do anything about it . . . that is when you get into trouble.” – Sarah Dessen

About Jamilah Samian

Jamilah has written 451 articles.

Jamilah Samian is an author and speaker.

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