A way forward out of regret

Instead of wallowing in regret over past actions, we can move forward with the assurance that ever-present divine Love governs – then, now, and always.

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Before I moved to a new community I would regularly get together with a family member who didn’t drive, and after I moved away, I made an effort to visit frequently. When the pandemic hit, our visits became much rarer, but as things began to open up again, we slowly resumed our get-togethers. Then this family member suddenly passed away. I regretted that I hadn’t made more of an effort to return to our previous active schedule.

It’s often natural to look back and determine what we’d like to do better going forward. This can be a practical step toward progress. Sometimes, though, we focus so much on what went wrong that regret and self-blame hide any hope of fresh opportunity or healing. How can we break that cycle?

I’ve found that a reliable starting point is gaining a better sense of God as the source of all good. The first chapter of Genesis in the Bible points to the ever-presence of good, declaring the invariable completeness of God’s creation (see Genesis 1:31). The relation between God, who is infinite good, and His spiritual offspring, which includes each of us, is ever intact. Divine Love, another name for God, never goes anywhere. Love’s tender care is always available.

Willingness to bring our thinking to this higher place, to realize that God is supreme, disrupts patterns of remorse and distress. While being grateful may not be what usually comes to mind when feeling low, letting our thought be filled with thankfulness for God, divine Mind, as an always-reliable source of direction and guidance makes it easier to recognize divine Love’s power and presence right at hand.

A favorite Bible verse explains, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5, 6). That shift of focus from self to God helps us see a course away from regret – one in which we learn from those experiences and move forward, rather than being consumed by remorse.

This promise of progress is here for us all. Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of The Christian Science Monitor, explains in “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” “Progress is the law of God, whose law demands of us only what we can certainly fulfil” (p. 233). It’s natural to make progress, to move forward productively, because of our true nature as the expression of God, of infinite good – not mortals doomed to make mistakes with an unrelenting hold. As we get to know ourselves and others in that spiritual light, not only do we more readily move beyond limiting circumstances, but we are in a better position to have fewer occasions that cause regret in the future. Leaning on God, Mind, brings the inspiration that guides thinking to a fresh and healing viewpoint.

In the case of my experience with this family member, I was certainly grateful for all the time we had spent together. And even my later small efforts to keep in touch were the outgrowth of affection that had its source in the divine Love that embraces all – including my family member and me – at every moment. I knew that Love’s care could also lift me out of regret and sorrow over what I felt were past mistakes.

And through prayer, by the time we held a celebration of life for my family member a year later, every last vestige of regret was gone, and only joy and gratitude remained.

A hymn in the “Christian Science Hymnal” says poetically,

Shine forth, and let the darkling past
Beneath Thy beam grow bright;
Shine forth, and touch the future vast
With Thine untroubled light.
(Washington Gladden, No. 226)

Turning our thought to God, good, frees us from being tied to unhappy memories or regrets, enabling us to remember all the good that has happened and to prayerfully expect good to continue. This spiritual perspective brings harmony and the assurance of joyful progress.

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