Friday, February 12, 2016

Healthy vs Unhealthy Regret

I hoped one day I'd experience a permanent win in the battle between unhealthy and healthy regret. Two recent experiences remind me I'm not alone in this battle and it's far from over. The first incident began when my wife and I decided we needed to child proof our sliding glass door which leads to our pool area, which is not surrounded by a fence. I knew before I started drilling the latch into the slider there was a danger of breaking the glass. I thought about then ignored the option of simply drilling two holes on the right side of the latch and leaving the left side alone. That way I could be certain I wouldn't break the glass. I thought about using glue  to strengthen and support the latch would work just fine.

That's all I did. I thought about it, then ignored my concerns and the idea that would have led to a successful installation. I'm a tad obsessive. The thought of  seeing two empty screw slots presented me with an asymmetrical picture I didn't want to live with. So I drilled out the two holes on the left side, close to the glass door. All went well until I began the process of tightening the first screw on the left side of the latch. One turn of the screw driver shattered the glass in the door into thousands of pieces. It needlessly cost me $460 to replace the glass door. I didn't feel much better when the technician expressed his surprise that I broke the glass. He thought I'd drilled the hole far enough away. He said "You must have just nicked the glass just enough to break it." His comment  didn't make me feel any better.

Once the door was replaced, I settled with my original decision to keep screws on the right side of the latch away from the glass.  I was overwhelmed with the anger I felt toward myself.  I knew the screws on the left side were dangerously close to the glass, and I knew I was running the risk of breaking the glass. I also knew the would have worked just fine with two screws instead of four. Ignoring my own advice cost me $460.

 I can't count the number of times I've ignored my own advice, knowledge or wisdom and paid a costly price. I didn't know how to move on or how forgive myself. I was more than angry, I felt self hatred and condemnation. That's the sign of unhealthy regret. You're stuck in self hatred or condemnation or simply the wish you could undo what you've done.

Sometimes we pay the ultimate price for ignoring ourselves. I remember a elderly woman who was a dear friend. She was taking a shower when her phone rang. She had a message machine. There was no reason she couldn't pick up the message after her shower. Unfortunately, she decided she couldn't wait. In her rush to answer the phone she fell, slipped, and broke her hip. After multiple complications following her surgery, she died. You'd think I'd learn an important lesson from her experience, but I didn't. A few years later my phone rang while I was in the bath. I decided to run out of the bath to answer it rather than let my answering machine pick up a message. On my way to answer the phone I went sliding across the floor. I was fortunate. I kept my balance and didn't fall. It was too close a call. Once again I had to ask myself, why is it I ignore doing what I know to be right. I was extremely grateful I didn't fracture my hip. I made a mental note to myself that said "Never do that again!" I can't help but wonder if I'll ignore this warning once again.

Today I was reading a few posts from a prostate cancer support group. Many of the men were experiencing unhealthy regret. They were beating themselves up for decisions that made that cost them a great deal in terms of their health. One man regretted the years he'd spent using testosterone. He was convinced this decision made his cancer more deadly. Another man regretted the amount of time he delayed his treatment. That delay may cost him his life. Still another regretted his decision not to follow his Doctor's recommendation to have both radiation and chemotherapy after surgery. Now that his cancer has spread, he's starting chemotherapy. Sometimes we pay a lot more than $460 for making a mistake.

All of those men were living with a potentially life threatening disease, which is highly stressful enough. Adding to their stress and misery was unhealthy regret, forgiveness and self condemnation.
It isn't easy to break free from unhealthy regret. It takes time, intentionality, forgiveness and a reworking of thoughts.

Religion is often associated with guilt. I knew a Pastor who said he wasn't doing his job correctly if people didn't experience guilt after each his sermons. Jesus gave us the opportunity to end unhealthy regret in every circumstance:
 Rom 8:1
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. (NKJ)

If there is no condemnation in Christ, why do we condemn ourselves? Do you want to be chained to
 your worst mistakes? My answer is "Heck no!"

There are many people who reject this amazing offer:

John 8:34-36
Jesus answered them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.  And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever.  Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed. (NKJV)

Martin Luther King understood this when he said: "Free at last! free at last! Thank God almighty we are free at last. Nothing can take away the freedom God offers to you. It's an offer I can't refuse. How about you?

I leave you with two important questions to ask yourself. "What are the regrets that cause me to repeatedly beat myself up about?" Finally, "Will you forgive yourself?"

Rick Redner and his wife Brenda are the authors of an awarding winning book written to help men and couples cope with life without a prostate. I Left My Prostate in San Francisco-Where’s Yours?
Coping With The Emotional, Relational, Spiritual & Sexual Aspects of Prostate Cancer can  be previewed and purchased at:

Look for their next book about erectile dysfunction & penile implants in the 2nd quarter of 2016.

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