Our regrets, on the other hand, shove our emotional gearshift into reverse.
In Western culture, we face an endless buffet of choices every day: everything from what school our kids will attend to what outfit we’ll wear to a dizzying menu of church choices to which kind of toppings we’d like to order on our next pizza. Choosing one thing means excluding others. Researchers who have studied regret learned that the more choices we have before us, the more opportunities we have to accumulate regrets.
Regret researchers from the University of Illinois–Champaign and Northwestern University queried 370 adults about their most memorable regrets.1 Almost 20 percent of respondents reported they had a regret about a romantic relationship. Sixteen percent shared stories of family issues and an additional 9 percent cited specific parenting mistakes. Other categories of regret included ed- ucation, vocation, financial decisions, and health choices. A recent LifeWay study2 found that nearly half of those polled said they were currently dealing with the consequences of an earlier bad decision.
Jesus promises his followers something better than a do-over. He promises a new life (John 3:1-21). Paul echoed this promise when he told his friends at Corinth, “If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Cor. 5:17).
We may sing that God’s grace is amazing, that we once were lost and now are found. Our churches encourage us toward bold faith and celebrate stories of transformation. So we wonder what is wrong with us because we may still be lugging around lingering regrets from our lives before we came to faith in him. Or we feel ashamed because we’ve managed to rack up a regret tab in the time since we’ve been found.