Relational Regret And Finite Existence

Full disclosure: just because I’m a pastor doesn’t mean I have everything figured out, nor does it mean that I don’t have regrets.

Unfortunately, I find myself looking back at past situations and saying to myself, “What could I have done to salvage that?”

I find myself saying, “What could I have done to make her stay? What could I have done to keep her in my life?”

This is a little something I’d like to call relational regret. Places like Focus On The Family would coin it as “romantic regret.” And that’s exactly what it is for me: regrets concerning romantic relationships. It’s asking the question of, “What If?”

What if I had been a better boyfriend?

What if I had been a better friend in general?

What if I had done things differently?

Questions that haunt me regularly. Questions that I ask myself about my last long-term relationship. Questions that I ask myself about my college relationship.

But they’re questions that get me nowhere. They leave me feeling worse than before I asked them in the first place. They take me back to some hard places and times in my life that I don’t really want to relive.

I can’t go back and change how I acted, how I reacted, how I was, because I am a finite, fixed being. My existence does not transcend time and space. I can’t be back in Georgia between July and November of 2014. I can’t be back in the summer of 2011 into summer of 2012. I’m not God or even godlike.

And I have to be okay with that. Are there times where I’m not? Oh sure. Dozens. But sometimes I just have to tell myself, “Just be okay with it. It’s okay. Life keeps moving on,” just so that I can get back to reality.

I’ve been flashing back to some relational regret this week, the things that I’ve done that shouldn’t have, like being less of a friend and neglecting the foundation instead of focusing on strengthening what we were standing on. I threw away what could’ve been an amazing, outstanding, phenomenal relationship with an amazing woman of God, if I wouldn’t have been so dumb.

The past is the past though. It’s set in stone. It’s written. Done. Finished. Can’t be changed. So I have to let the past be the past. I have to kill the past and let it stay dead so that I don’t get caught in the tangles of reminiscing about situations that hurt me.

So I move forward. I let the past be the past and do my due diligence to press on toward the brighter future that God has for me, filled with opportunities to avoid relational regret and be a better person in relationships, so He can get the glory.

3 thoughts on “Relational Regret And Finite Existence

  1. I dig the openness my friend.

    I find myself somewhere in the middle. While I definitely think we shouldn’t let the past suck us down like quicksand, preventing us from pressing "on toward the brighter future that God has…." I also find myself repeating the same mistakes when I don’t reflect, but not in the " Oh, woe is me" type of way, I mean the kind of reflection where I look at what I have done and figure out what I could have done better.

    It wasn’t until I asked my ex the tough "How was I as a boyfriend" questions that I started to piece things together. I am still working on that.

  2. Another great post from Mr. Jacob Ray! I definitely have a ton of relational regret of my own. Mostly in the friendship realm though. I dropped all of my friends after high school because they were making poor decisions and I should have just loved them through it. But I think it’s a trap. Like you said, all of that regret isn’t fruitful. Obsessing over the past doesn’t do anything but prevent us from moving forward. Just have to move forward and keep doing the next right thing.


  3. While I can appreciate you being transparent about not having everything figured out, I respectfully disagree with the way you’re thinking about relational regret.

    I think you are focusing more on the "What If’s" (which are most definitely questions that lead to nowhere because one may never, and probably won’t, receive the answers they desire). However, I think it would be more productive to ask "What could I have done differently so that in the present, and in the future, I cannot make this mistake again?" and actually learn from your admitted errors rather than seemingly pushing them into the past and almost denying their existence (As seen in: "So I have to let the past be the past. I have to kill the past and let it stay dead so that I don’t get caught in the tangles of reminiscing about situations that hurt me").

    Sure, you are correct in saying that you can’t go back and change things in the past, but you ALWAYS have the chance and ability to change things in the future, even if that’s the harder and more awkward path. I would challenge you to try and change something rather than forget it. And if that mistake is too far gone, at least you can say you TRIED. I think the bigger regret would be not even attempting.

    Rather than burying your regrets, face them, beat them, and then move on as a stronger and wiser individual.

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