“Live with no regrets,” the saying goes. It is a very silly saying, in my not-so-humble opinion.
You see, I have regrets. I have a lot of regrets, because I have done a lot of stupid, unpleasant things. When you’ve spent years in the bottom of a bottle, letting your erratic mental state control your life, then you either accumulate regrets, blank out everything, or are a cold-hearted bastard. There are no other options.
I don’t bother with feeling guilty, though; that would be entirely pointless. I’ve done bad things, but that’s no reason to go tearing myself up, or accusing myself of being a bad person. I always say that when you do something you believe is wrong, you can either fix it or move on – but lingering on it without doing anything about it is pretty much the definition of guilt, and an entirely pointless, self-destructive thing.
If you say something hurtful to someone you care for, then apologise at the soonest possible opportunity; don’t waste time shouting at yourself for doing something wrong, and letting the situation fester. If you can’t apologise, or right your wrong in any way, then file it under “silly things I should not do again” and move on.
Because while you should not waste your time beating yourself up over things you can’t change, that’s no reason not to occasionally look back on them, remember that you were an idiot, and regret it for a moment.
For example, it is perfectly reasonable for me to look back at the time I was inhumanly cruel to my best friend while drunk for three months, and regret it. There is nothing unreasonable about saying “if I could go back and do it differently, I would” (even if you actually wouldn’t, because making that mistake made you who you are today, and if you didn’t make it then you couldn’t go back to change it, which would create a paradox that would destroy the fabric of spacetime).
Retrospection is perfectly sensible, and I find it incredibly useful. Sometimes I even think over exactly how I could have done things differently. It is a good learning exercise for how to handle similar situations in the future.
For me, regret is not lingering on my mistakes all the time, wracked with guilt over the stupid choices I made – or the impulsive things I’ve done that caused so much suffering for people I care about. It is considering them, in the cold, clear light of hindsight, and thinking that I really should have behaved differently. It is healthy.
So next time someone says they live “without regrets,” you can tell them from me that they are either lying, a cold-hearted arsehole, or have a tremendously shitty memory. Because unless you’ve never done anything wrong in your life at all (highly unlikely), then you will have some regrets – no matter how small. And that’s ok.