Beseech His Majesty, my daughters, always to live within me, for otherwise what security can there be in a life as misspent as mine? And do not let it depress you to realize that I am like that–I have sometimes seen you depressed when I have told you so. The reason it affects you in that way is that you would like to think I had been very holy. That is quite right of you: I should like to think so myself. But what can I do about it when I have lost so much through my own fault? (Teresa of Avila: Third Mansions: Chapter One)
For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves guiltless in this manner. (2 Corinthians 7.11)
John, Deb and their two kids got ready for church like they did every Sunday. John, as usual, was irritated with the kids along with a bout of self-pity designed to inflict pain on Deb. The Holy Spirit, through the morning sermon, confronted John about his ongoing anger. The next two weeks he prayed, meditated, talked, apologized, and agonized. John changed. Change began with his anger and self-pity and then moved to other areas of his life. He turned regret for his sin into strengths for the future.
Teresa says she regrets the “misspent” years and how much she has lost through her own fault. Is she unnecessarily “beating herself up”? Exaggerated humility? I don’t think so. Healthy regret can motivate in a way personal growth plans cannot. Intense regret strikes with power: “what alarm”, “what longing”, “what zeal”, “what eagerness to clear ourselves”. Healthy regret inspires change and alters the future.
Teresa says, “I cannot help having been what I have”. While she deals honestly about her past shortcomings, she does not wallow in them or allow them to control her future. Neither should we. We can’t make the past go away, but we can give the past (and the future) new meaning if we make the necessary adjustments.
Do we have intense regrets? If so, let’s make immediate changes. Five years from now we don’t want to be regretting the last five years.
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