What is regret? This week, a friend described her experience of regret to me vividly, as caused by “hearing the voice of god saying Yes, and replying No.” Refusing a call, gut feeling, or moment of clarity and living the consequences, or perceived consequences, of refusal.
Kathryn Schulz, author of Being Wrong, defines regret as “the emotion we experience when we think our present situation could be better or happier if we had done something different in the past.” We wish that we had done something different in the past; we imagine we would have a different present, and a better future.
There are times when simply the anticipation of possible regret is enough to stymie the simplest decision.
How do we hold feelings of regret with compassion? Phillip Moffitt writes, “Your willingness to fully accept all your life, including the pain it has contained, presents benevolent possibilities for your life…. You have the opportunity right now to benefit yourself and others by embracing the life you have had and garnering the wisdom of nonclinging from it.” (Dancing with Life)
From what I can tell, today’s recipe for contentment seems to include at least a dash of regret. Not so much it overwhelms the dish; enough to bring out the flavor of what truly matters. “The chemist who can extract from his heart’s elements compassion, respect, longing, patience, regret, surprise, and forgiveness and compound them into one, can create that atom which is called love.” (Kahlil Gibran)
Adjust proportions to taste, mix, and serve! What’s your recipe for contentment?