Excerpt from Jerry Sittser's A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows through Loss (eBook).
Regret is inescapable in a world of imperfection, failure, and loss. But can there also be redemption? Can a life gone wrong because of loss be made right again, however irreversible the loss itself? Can people with regrets be set free and transformed?
I believe that there can be redemption, but only under one significant condition: People with regrets can be redeemed, but they cannot reverse the loss that gave rise to the regrets. People can be changed by the unchangeable losses they experience. Thus, for redemption to occur, they must let go of the loss itself and embrace the good effects that the loss can have on their lives. They must somehow transcend what lies behind and reach forward to what lies ahead, directing their energies toward changes they can make now. In other words, they must seek personal transformation, which comes only through grace...
[How Regret Can Be Useful]
Regret [can] lead to transformation if we view loss as an opportunity to take inventory of our lives. Loss forces us to see ourselves for what we are.
Freedom did not come from denying the past but from looking at it squarely, taking ownership of it, and allowing myself to be transformed by it.
For about four months after the accident I spent a great deal of time reviewing the quality of the marriage relationship I had with Lynda. Most of what I reviewed pleased me, though not all. I also explored my family history and observed patterns in my past that kept repeating themselves from one generation to the next. I looked hard at the kind of person I was. I kept asking questions and evaluating. I gained insights that were troubling to me. I saw how manipulative and self-righteous I was and how often I tried to impress and win others. This period of reflection proved to be liberating for me. I am more free from the past now than I would otherwise have been. Yet this freedom did not come from denying the past but from looking at it squarely, taking ownership of it, and allowing myself to be transformed by it...
[When Regret Goes Sour]
The gift of divine forgiveness will help us to forgive ourselves. Without it, regret becomes a form of self-punishment. We see the evil we have done and the pain we have inflicted on others. We feel an acute sense of guilt. We loathe our selfishness and foolishness. And we know that there is nothing we can do to reverse the consequences of our actions.
Yet a holy God imparts forgiveness if we sincerely ask for it; a just God shows us mercy and embraces us in love. If such a God can forgive us, then surely we can forgive ourselves. If such a God lavishes us with grace, then surely we can stop punishing ourselves and live in that grace. Divine forgiveness leads to self-forgiveness.
- Jerry Sittser
Q: How can we know when regret has turned sour?
Learn more about A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows through Loss (eBook). And I'm looking forward to Sittser's upcoming book, A Grace Revealed!
-Adam Forrest, tip of the hat to Matt Saganski
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