I had a weird dream a few weeks ago. It involved a friend from my youth. She and I were seeing each other again after 22 years and trying to catch up while getting lost driving to the church I attended as a child. We wound up in downtown Chicago, which had turned into a huge toy store.
To me, if you can believe it, this was all about regret. This friend and I had had a falling out right after her divorce and a few years before mine, when I was hiding my own marital disappointment behind stalwart self-righteousness. Not a good place to be when a friend is going through tough times.
My attempt at support was along the lines of: "I told you he was a jerk." So she stopped communicating with me. I've tried a couple of times in the intervening years to be in touch, to no avail.
Regret. The things in our lives we really can't fix. Sometimes they can weigh heavily. And to know that someone still hasn't forgiven you, and may not, is humbling.
My subsequent prayers helped me see that maybe there was something I could do about it.
First, it came to me that I had to forgive myself. Sometimes I hang on to my mistakes as a sort of penance, continuing to punish myself for them to be sure I've learned my lesson thoroughly.
But punishing myself does no good. Mary Baker Eddy wrote: "Divine Love corrects and governs man. Men may pardon, but this divine Principle alone reforms the sinner" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 6).
It's letting divine Love do the reformation that leads to healing and forgiveness. Then, when you've grown, at a certain point you need to say, I've learned enough about that. I'm not that person anymore, I'm not capable of inflicting that kind of hurt anymore. Not that I still don't make mistakes - I do. But I did learn from prior zingers and know better now in those areas.
Second, if I'm feeling regret for hurt I caused someone, I can pray for them. I may never see my friend again, but I can pray for her. I'm praying in hopes of her happiness and success. To hold her in the arms of divine Love, knowing that she has the love that I wasn't able to show her. That she's never been abandoned or hurt. That God is her husband, even as He has been mine all these years.
And third, of course, is to live correctly now. To see and circumvent the hurt my failings might be causing today, to ameliorate the hurt by openly expressing self-knowledge and love.
I'm much quicker to apologize these days than I was as a young woman, not only because I've made enough mistakes to have lost some of the self-righteousness, but because I know too well the taste of regret for goodness left undone.
Yet I've also grown in the understanding that my mistakes are not the final word on my true identity. My spiritual selfhood doesn't make mistakes, because it's the emanation of the One who is mistake-free, perfect, holy. It's from this basis that I try to make up for what I've done, honestly facing human errors while developing a deeper understanding of who I am spiritually as the image of divine Love.
The day of my dream I prayed for my friend and others in my past for whom I wish I'd been a better friend. In a sense I was their best friend that day.
The Lord watch
between me and thee,
when we are absent
one from another.