"Regret is a temptation. It entices us to lust for what never was in the past rather than to bring new energy to our changing present. It is a misuse of the aging process. One of the functions--one of the gifts--of aging is to become comfortable with the self we are, rather than to mourn what we are not." So writes Joan Chittister in today's reading (p. 3). Regret can easily become what she calls, "the sand trap of the soul."
Gnawing on the bones of the past malnourishes the soul.
That being said, she is also quick to add that regret--if it is a reflective pause concerning what has been rather than an obsessive fixation--can serve to turn us toward growth. Being able to reflect on things we have done that we wish we had not done...and on those things we failed to do that we should have done is crucial to our capacity for positive change. "The blessing of regret is clear--it brings us, if we are willing to face it head on, to the point of being present to this new time of life in an entirely new way. It urges us on to continue becoming."
Perhaps the difference between good and bad regret is the presence of absence of grace. The ability to own up to our failings and, at the same time, to not be owned by them...engulfed by them. Part of listening to our lives is hearing the dissonances without losing our capacity (that grace makes possible) for improvisation. As Jazz teaches us, even mistakes or missed notes become occasions for creative compositions.
What are the regrets that you keep rehearsing? Where are the sand traps in your soul? What old, dry bones do you keep gnawing on? Lent is a good time to let the past be past and the present become new and renewing.
"So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!" II Corinthians 5:7