We all experience regret over things we’ve said and done – or didn’t say or do when we should have. The Bible says that if we repent of our wrong-doings, God is swift to forgive us. People may not be so swift to forgive, so it is best to avoid doing things that cause anguish in the first place.
Regret vs. Repentance
Regret is a feeling of sorrow over something we’ve done. Our regret may be over the knowledge that we have inadvertently hurt someone, or it may be over the fact that we got caught doing something we thought we’d get away with. Either way regret is sorrow, but not necessarily knowing that we were wrong in doing something. In fact we may feel regret now, but if the opportunity arises again, we may well do it again because we still feel we had the “right” to do whatever we did … we’ll just be more careful not to get caught.
Repentance literally means “change of heart”. When we repent of an action or attitude, we come to see our behavior in a new way and turn away from it entirely. If an alcoholic or drug addict repents of that habit they come to see their actions as being destructive to themselves and those around them and turn away completely. Their body may still crave the substance they were abusing, but they will not give in to that craving because they hate what they were doing. When we repent of any sin, be that sin substance abuse or gossip, we come to see that sin from God’s perspective, not our own, and will turn away from it permanently.
The Better Way
Naturally the better course would be to avoid trouble all together so we do not have to feel regret which leads to repentance. Proverbs 27:12 says, “The prudent see danger and take refuge, the simple see the same danger, keep going and pay the penalty” (para). Why do we do that!?
This is a psychological term for the built-in tendency to seek out and accept information that supports or confirms our own opinions, beliefs and decisions – and to avoid or discard information that refutes our beliefs or shows our decisions to be faulty. In the passage related above, the word translated as ‘prudent’ means ‘wise’, and ‘simple’ means ‘naive’.
How to Be Wise
The time to avoid disaster is before you get there, not after you find yourself knee deep in the tar pit. Part of this is recognizing that all points of our life are interconnected, not isolated events. Prudent people recognize that the present becomes the past, and that the past influences the future, which will come back to be our present. Naive people think that present becomes past and stays there.
To prevent this we need to keep our eyes open and honestly assess the outcome of our actions, before we get into those actions and situations. To do that we have to actively lay aside our confirmation bias and assess our plans according to God’s will. We may have to sacrifice some short-term happiness or fulfillment, but in avoiding a trap we will gain long-term peace.
Do not coast along hoping all things will work out in the end. At each cross-road, pull out the road map of God’s word and see where each decision leads. If that destination is not someplace you want to end up; take the other path, even if it appears less attractive at the moment.
A Prayer for Wisdom
Andy Stanley offers this short prayer for wisdom and suggests that we each pray it at the start of every day: “Heavenly Father, help me see trouble coming long before it gets here. Give me the wisdom to know how to avoid it and the courage to act on that knowledge.”
Our biggest problem is that we often do see trouble on the horizon, but our confirmation bias leads us to pretend it’s not there, that we won’t get caught, that it won’t affect us that way, that it will be okay because we see something we want in it and don’t see the consequence that goes with it.
What are you trying desperately not to see?