Kabbalah teaches us that we often don’t grasp a principle the first time we hear it (or even the 10th time!) so it behooves us to revisit some key lessons. This week one issue seems to be arising time and time again… regret. This blog was posted back in 2012 but let’s revisit it and perhaps challenge ourselves to a regrets-free weekend.
“One day at a time—this is enough. Do not look back and grieve over the past for it is gone, and do not be troubled about the future, for it has not yet come. Live in the present, and make it so beautiful it will be worth remembering” ~ Anonymous
Do you ever catch yourself in a moment saying, “Argh… if ONLY I could just go back in time and change that time when I… [Fill in the action/situation]!!”
There are times in everyone’s life when we may have regrets about what we’ve said or done, whether we were children at the time, or new to parenting and trying to raise our children with awareness, we all have experiences that have helped shape who we are, good and bad, but we should never get stuck in trying to change our past.
It’s really simple – in truth, we cannot change anything from our past, not one little thing, not any moment in time can be changed from our past because it is left behind us. By endeavoring to change the past, we’re trying to correct that which is already done. But it’s just that, it’s done. We cannot perfect our pasts; we can only let them inform us better for the future – to make different choices for a brighter tomorrow. By erasing our past or wishing to do so would require erasing all of the good memories and experiences we had in all those years too, because the good and the bad go hand-in-hand.
I don’t think anyone should feel regretful about their actions, but rather grow from them. This message is especially important to learn early in life. If you’re a parent, you should encourage your children to understand that the bad reinforces the good (and reiterate that for yourself, too). If there is something from your childhood which is holding you back from the present and the life you deserve, stop and think about it this way: Light and dark operate at the exact same time, it all depends on which you want to focus on.
How would we ever be able to see the moon in the dark sky without the light of the sun? The sun never stops shining, and yet every day we have nightfall because the Earth rotates on its own axis – the earth is in constant motion – each day brings the rising of the sun as the earth pivots into position, just as it brings about the changes in season. We too are like the changing of day to night, night to day, and the changes from Spring to Fall through the year – each bearing new challenges, blessings and discoveries.
Living a life of regret, for any reason, is no way to live. Regret can only bring about two things: guilt and shame. There have been times when I have been caught off guard with my own kids, when I have overheard them saying, “I feel guilty.” These are words and terminologies that are not used in my house, so my biggest question to them is, “Where did you learn this word and why do you feel this way?” Let’s remove this word from our lexicon entirely. But we say things, “I feel shameful”, “I feel guilty”, “I wish I hadn’t done that”. The ever-pressing question, what’s the difference between guilt and shame?
We experience feelings of guilt when we do something bad – It’s when we hold something we’ve done, or failed to do, against the kind of person we want to be. It’s an uncomfortable place to be, but essentially it’s helpful, because you can choose to learn from it and do it differently the next time.
Shame is something quite different, and it’s something we all experience in one degree or another, whether we want to admit it or not, it does exist within us. Shame is when I believe that there’s something about me that – if other people had to come to know and see – would make me unworthy of connecting to them. Shame is ultimately fear of rejection, of not being good enough or worthy enough. We’re afraid that if people know our story; if they know the truth about who I am, about where I’ve come from, about what I believe, about how much I’m struggling, and even how wonderful I am and feel when I’m soaring they wouldn’t want to stick around. Sadly, at times it’s just as hard to own our strengths as it is our struggles.
Guilt means I feel bad. Shame means I am bad. Guilt is about our behavior and shame is about who we are.
As parents we can help reinforce these two major differences for our children by teaching them to take responsibility for their actions, and introducing the idea that they can do it differently the next time. And we can also reassure our children that no matter what, they are pure creations deserving and worthy of love. As parents, it is so important to not use shame when parenting, because all it does is teach our children that they’re not worthy of love.
Sometimes teaching is the best way to learn for ourselves. So, when you catch yourself wishing for a time machine and questioning, “What do I need to change from my past as I move forward?” The answer is NOTHING, absolutely nothing. One’s past does not need to be changed when they move forward, because our choices and our actions, whether they were positive or negative help make us better, stronger and wiser people today, in the now.
We learn from our mistakes as long as we put thought into who we want to become. Our children, as well as our selves, are a constant work in progress. We are not only human beings, but they are humans becoming. Let’s help our children, and ourselves, by reinforcing the idea of “what do I want to do differently as I move forward?” I want to remind you that worthiness is having a strong sense of love and belonging, and that is all in our hands, we are the axis, let’s help our children not only revolve but evolve.
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