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Regrets Can Be Instructional

He whose ear listens to the life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise. He who neglects discipline despises himself, but he who listens to reproof acquires understanding.
—Proverbs 15:31-32

Another insight that can help you live without regrets is this truth: regrets can be instructional.

Dr. Arthur Freeman and Rose DeWolf describe the potential value of regrets: “Somewhere inside all of us there is a Hall of Memories where we keep the people, places, and events of our past. . . . These memories may be painful, but only temporarily so. . . . You come away refreshed, warmed, or warned–ready to deal again with the future. Maybe even able to warn others not to repeat your mistakes. The key to progress in life is returning to the present. The Hall of Memories becomes a fascinating place to visit–no longer a place in which to live–or even linger.”

You see, one of the greatest values of regrets is that they can provide instruction for the future. They can keep us from making the same mistake over and over again.

Years ago I was faced with the possibility of a change in my ministry. At the time my girls were young. One night, while I was debating this decision, I went into my daughter’s bedroom to turn out the closet light. When I walked into the closet, I saw a collage my wife had made for each year of my daughter’s life. As I looked through those pictures, I was filled with regrets about missed opportunities to spend time with my daughters. Then I asked myself, “If I took this new ministry assignment, will I look at snapshots in future years and be filled with those same regrets?” So I sat down with a piece of paper and said, “If I take this new ministry assignment, how will this affect my children? Is it a plus, minus, or a zero? What about my marriage? What about my friendships?” I went down the list and added a plus or a minus or a zero–meaning positive effect, negative effect, or no effect. I realized that taking this new job would have more minuses than pluses in my life, so I declined to do it.

Why did I make that decision? It was because the regrets of my past provided direction for my future. In Proverbs 15:31-32, Solomon says, “He whose ear listens to the life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise. He who neglects discipline despises himself, but he who listens to reproof acquires understanding.” The pain of regret over past mistakes can give you guidance about the future.

Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Living above the Could-Haves, Would-Haves, Should-Haves” ” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2009.

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Quote from Dr. Arthur Freeman and Rose DeWolf, “Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda: Overcoming Regrets, Mistakes, and Missed Opportunities (New York: William Morrow, 1992), 263-64.


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