How to Deal with Shame & Regret

Psalm 103: 12 As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

I read a professional athlete’s blog this week and in it, she addresses the issue of regret.  I loved her take on it because it clearly addresses a mutual “pet peeve” we have – hearing people say: “I have no regrets”.

“I’ve always had a soft spot for people with regrets.  I feel like we as humans have a self-protecting tendency to assert that we have no regrets, having happened into a place where we would not be without error.  From my experience, I’m not better off having made some of the mistakes I’ve made.  It’s also possible to appreciate something like a bee sting from a distance.  Not unlike a wicked hangover, I, too, am full of regret.” Eleanor Fulton (American Professional Runner)

Fulton goes on to list her top running regrets which include:  Fearing the steeplechase and therefore “Half-assing” the race; putting herself in a box as a “mid-distance runner”; pushing through injury instead of resting; pushing through illness rather than resting; and not going all-out in some races.

Some would say that Fulton just needs to get over it and move on.  No one said, however, that she hasn’t gotten over it; she has just chosen to not ignore these regrets.  If she preached the mantra, like many others today, “I have no regrets”, then she would have never written this blog.  Beyond the lessons that she herself has learned from these mistakes, Fulton can now bless countless other young athletes and coaches by learning from her mistakes. I know there are thousands of athletes today (probably some reading this blog) who are committing the same mistakes she made.  Her regret can become their blessing.

I recently met with a young man who was newly married.  I shared with him some of my regrets from when I was his age, specifically as it related to how I treated my wife.  I told him that I wished I could go back in time and do things differently; I wished I could have been gentler, I wished that I would have behaved more like a shepherd than a warrior.  I said I wished I would have had a godly man, my age now, sitting across the table telling me this.  I told him I can’t go back in time, but I can share this with as many other young husbands as I can, to hopefully encourage them to be more Christ-like in their leadership, and in doing so significantly change the lives of those around them.

To be clear, I may have some regrets, but I have no shame.  Jesus Christ has forgiven me for my mistakes, for my lack of wisdom, for my sin.  I don’t lie awake with feelings of shame, because as Paul says: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” (Romans 8:1), and as the Psalmist says: “As far as the East is from the West, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”  (Psalm 103:12).  I am at peace because I have chosen to live a life of repentance and I embrace that: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9).

However, outside of Jesus Christ, himself, I don’t feel there is another person who has ever walked on the face of the earth who should have no regrets.  Use your regrets to make real change in your life; use your regrets to positively change the lives of those around you.  But if your regret has turned to shame, ensure you’ve repented of your sin, and then accept Christ’s “unconditional” forgiveness, and scream out the truths of the scripture into the heavenlies:  “There is now no condemnation for ME, for I am in Christ Jesus!”

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