Is regret of someone’s past sin against you stifling your relationships? In the heat of conflict, did you raise your voice to abnormal decibels or say something you wish you didn’t that led to the offense against you? Are you constantly rethinking your actions, surmising you could have changed something to have totally avoided the negative interaction? If so, you are holding on to the thought that you could have changed the past.
Regret fears and protects. We live out the thought that we could change the past, not only in our relationship with an offender, but also in our relationships with others. The result is regret imprisons us in the past and robs us of the present and future. The danger is we define ourselves by the past offense and its subsequent regret — the thought that we could have changed it. This violates the horizontal portion of the greatest commandment to love our neighbor, including our offender (Matthew 22:39).
An example from the Bible of someone who allowed thoughts about the past to imprison him was King Saul who feared David, God’s anointed successor to the throne. Saul’s thoughts of “I could’ve, would’ve, or should’ve” were often followed by the words “killed David.” Saul’s divided mind led to his repeated protection of his own kingdom as well as an on-again, off-again relationship with David and others around him.
Is regret causing you to fear and protect? Are you constantly thinking, “I could’ve, I would’ve, I should’ve changed the past?” Ask the Holy Spirit to search your heart for the sin of regret. Pray David’s refining prayer: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24). Ask Him to lead you down a new path, one that finds freedom in the Forgiver.