An End to All Resentment And Regret

"Resentment and regret are closely related. When we resent our current circumstances and anticipated future, we tend to regret our past. Resentment grows from the feeling that other people or unfair circumstances have irrevocably harmed us. When we feel so negative about our lives, it is no wonder we regret the past. We might say that regret is driven by resentment of the past and, even worse, by resentment of the sum total of our lives. When we resent and regret, we make the self-defeating assessment that our lives are flawed and beyond redemption.

"The way out of resentment and regret is straightforward. First, we have to take responsibility for our present and future lives. Even if, in the past, we were trapped in ways that were out of our control — which is seldom the case beyond childhood — we always have to take full responsibility for our own actions. Put simply, when we become autonomous, we stop resenting our past.

"Second, we need to express gratitude for everything we have. It is not possible to be grateful and resentful at the same moment.

"Finally, we have to decide to make the most of our lives — to dedicate ourselves to principled living and the achievement of our highest ideals. In my personal and clinical experience, the moment we (1) take responsibility for all our actions, (2) become grateful, and (3) decide to go after what we truly value in life, all resentment and regret die of irrelevance and lack of sustenance, and we begin to prosper emotionally.

"I want to make clear that leaving resentment and regret behind does not require great accomplishments or making up for what we have lost in the past. It requires a change in attitude and outlook — a determination to make the most of every present and future moment given to us.

"We cannot control the greatness of our achievements. There is too much chance involved. Similarly, after a great loss, we may not be able to reclaim or rebuild everything we once had. Just as living in a physically healthy fashion does not guarantee perfect health, an emotionally healthy approach does not guarantee a perfect life. What we can guarantee is that a positive, principled approach to life reaps instant benefits of self-satisfaction and happiness, and it offers the best opportunity for success in anything principled we attempt.

We can choose at any moment to set aside our particular emotional handicaps in the interest of thinking straight, making positive choices, and loving. We will have additional work to do as we practice consistently recognizing, identifying, and rejecting our self-defeating emotions while promoting our life-enhancing ones. Meanwhile, we and everyone around us will quickly become aware of a major change for the better.

"Whatever emotional ball and chain we carry, it is never too late to saw it loose. No matter how much we have handicapped ourselves, whatever time we have left will become infinitely happier.

"Disappointment, betrayal, and losses may overwhelm us, but, once we decide to take charge of life and become a source of love, we will no longer be preoccupied with what has gone wrong in the past. We will realize that what matters is being the person we want to be in the present moment while planning to continue bringing out our best in the future."