Spring Cleaning for the Soul: 7 Ways to Rid Yourself of Regret

Spring Cleaning for the Soul: 7 Ways to Rid Yourself of Regret

Spring is known as the time to clean our houses, to search through closets and rid ourselves of unnecessary items. Likewise, it’s a good time to search through our souls and rid ourselves of unnecessary things we carry around year-after-year within us.

One such weight many of us carry is regret. Studies show regret to be the most common negative feeling humans experience.

In a national survey asking what regrets a typical American experiences, researchers found there are thirteen shared sources of regret with romance being the number one experience, followed by family, education, career, finance, parenting, health, “other,” friends, spirituality, community, leisure, and self.

Some regrets are easier to push aside and move forward from, like the thought that I shouldn’t have worn this dress or these shoes today. Or why did I eat all the cookies?

Other regrets, ones that seem more life-changing, are much harder for individuals to come to terms with further down the road. Because hindsight seems 20/20, we often think we see situations more clearly looking back than when we actually went through them. It’s a type of vision that often leads to deep feelings of regret.

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  • How to Begin Cleaning

    How to Begin Cleaning

    Sadly, regret relentlessly taunts us with the “what ifs” and “if only I had or hadn’t” thoughts. It pushes us to relive and replay over and over again in our minds the times we missed out or messed up.

    Unfortunately, this constant regretful jabbing can pay a toll on our lives, as research indicates how failing to reconcile with past regrets has the potential to affect how we deal with present stresses and situations.

    Yet there is hope. Though regret tells us we lost out, God’s word tells us, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).

    So how do we move past the “what ifs” in life? How do we find peace and contentment in how life has played out so far? Here are seven ways to begin.

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  • 1. Remember God's Grace and Mercy

    1. Remember God's Grace and Mercy

    Pre-licensed therapist Gretchen J. Penner ASW, who specializes in the treatment of trauma, anxiety, and depression, is a big believer in self-compassion, saying, “In order to let go of regrets, we need to treat ourselves to the same compassion and love that Christ bestows on us.”

    Penner describes self-compassion as accepting our humanness with its imperfections, realizing as Romans 3:23 describes, we have all have fallen short of the glory of God. “If we are perfect and never make mistakes,” she explains, “then we don’t need the cross, Christ, or His love and mercy.”

    Like Psalm 23 tells us how God’s grace and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives, Penner explains how “Self-compassion means we accept the love and mercy of God.”

    She offers us a picture of what this might look like, of a long cape or train wrapped around our waist that follows us, wiping away our mistakes. When we look back to see our footsteps and the mistakes we’ve made, we don’t see them because God’s provision of grace and mercy has covered them and wiped them all away.

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  • 2. Confess Any Unbelief

    2. Confess Any Unbelief

    Romans 8:28 tells us, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

    Because God assures us of His ability to work things out for us, regret is often rooted in unbelief, a lack of trusting God to really do what He says He will do with all things in our life.

    Instead we often repeatedly choose to believe regret’s accusations that our lives could have been better if only? Believing we messed up and missed out, nagging us to think that what we did or didn’t do, would have made things turn out differently.

    So what can we do with this type of unbelief? We can confess it and ask God to help us overcome our unbelief (Mark 9:24). 1 John 1:9 explains, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purity us from all unrighteousness.”

    We can choose to trust God to work all our life events together for good, including regrets, even when it seems impossible to us. We can choose to believe what Jesus told us, that everything is possible to one who believes (Mark 9:23).

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  • 3. Let Go of Regret

    3. Let Go of Regret

    Matthew 6:34 urges “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” 

    The film What About Bob, starring Bill Murray, is about a man paralyzed by his fears and phobias who decides to take a vacation from his problems. Weighed down and burdened by his issues, he begins by taking “baby steps,” a technique his therapist urges him to do.

    As Bob follows his therapist’s advice, his problems soon disappear because instead of dwelling on his fears and anxiety, he faces them and focuses on living life to the fullest.

    Even better than our taking “baby steps,” God urges us to “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

    God is inviting us to give all our regrets to Him, offering us relief from the weight and burdens, allowing Him to carry them for us. Like Psalm 55:22 encourages, “Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken.”

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  • 4.&nbsp;<strong>Receive God’s Peace</strong>

    4. Receive God’s Peace

    Regret keeps peace away, just the opposite of what God wants for our lives. Jesus tells us, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in Me” (John 14:1).

    One way to receive His peace is to dwell on God’s word rather than regret. Rather than letting regret keep replaying in our minds, we can focus on what God offers us. Scripture reassures us that God’s peace is available to us when we are willing to receive it.

    • “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you” (Isaiah 26:3).
    • “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful” (Colossians 3:15).
    • Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).
    • “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

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  • 5. Reach Out beyond Regret When Possible

    5. Reach Out beyond Regret When Possible

    For areas where regret has plagued us, it’s okay to reach out where there may be opportunities to right a wrong. Things like apologizing to people we’ve hurt, forgiving those who have hurt us, and more.

    If we broke promises to others, failing to carry through on our word, we can ask if there is any way we can make it up to them.

    Because God is reconciling the world to Himself through Christ by not holding our sins against us, He has also given us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:19).

    Through Him, we can reach out beyond regret when we have the ability, opportunity, or power to do so. However, we also need to realize when it’s not an option, we can trust and believe God to make things right in our lives and the lives of others.

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  • 6. Learn from Past Regrets

    6. Learn from Past Regrets

    Can anything good ever come out of regret? Is it possible to learn from it?

    Penner, in her discussion of self-compassion, describes how it helps us to take a compassionate view towards why we made the mistakes we made saying, “Sometimes we need to ask ourselves, ‘Did I do the best I could with the information I had in that moment?’”

    She reassures how, “So often it’s easy to look back and judge our decisions with information we now have, but didn’t have back then. We can only do the best we can with the information that we have in the moment we are in.”

    Like 2 Corinthians 4:7 reminds us, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”

    In going forward, we don’t have to depend on ourselves, or our own knowledge, in making decisions but can rely on God’s power to help us and work through us.

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  • 7. Go Forward with Confidence

    7. Go Forward with Confidence

    Joseph’s remarkable story in the Bible illustrates how we can go forward with confidence in life, rather than dwelling on regret.

    Scripture doesn’t record Joseph dealing with regret, even though there was much room and opportunity for him to experience it. He could have wished he hadn’t told his brothers about his dream or hadn’t worn his flashy coat around them. His actions could have weighed him down the rest of his life, causing him to ask himself, “What if I hadn’t done these things? Maybe my brothers wouldn’t have sold me into slavery?”

    Yet years later he sums up his perspective on his brothers’ actions towards him. “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20).

    Like Joseph, we can believe God intends good for our lives. We can also choose to trust Him to help us rid ourselves of regret, along with giving us a new perspective on His working everything together for our well-being.

    Lynette Kittle is married with four daughters. She enjoys writing about faith, marriage, parenting, relationships, and life. Her writing has been published by Focus on the Family, Decision, Today’s Christian Woman, kirkcameron.com, Ungrind.org, StartMarriageRight.com, and more. She has a M.A. in Communication from Regent University and serves as associate producer for Soul Check TV.

    Photo Credit: Getty Images

    Lynette Kittle is married with four daughters. She enjoys writing about faith, marriage, parenting, relationships, and life. Her writing has been published by Focus on the Family, Decision, Today’s Christian Woman, kirkcameron.com, Ungrind.org, StartMarriageRight.com, and more. She has a M.A. in Communication from Regent University and serves as associate producer for Soul Check TV.