- DH = Dear husband
- DD3 = Dear third daughter
At our church, we were challenged to give up something for the season of lent – 46 days – leading up to Easter. Some people have given up chocolate. DH gave up coffee. I have given up TV and movies – with the proviso that I can watch Christian content. There are some great YouTube resources out there, and I’ve discovered, among others, the teachings of Andy Stanley. Over the last few weeks, I haven’t been pining for my Netflix series.*
Andy and Sandra Stanley
Last night, I watched “Me and the Mrs.” – a segment from Stanley’s sermon series “Guardrails” in which he and his wife talk about the boundaries – or guardrails – that they established early on in their relationship to protect their marriage, their finances, their family, and their work-life balance. I have written before about how envy has sometimes reared its ugly head as DH and I have walked our journey out of debt, but I’m happy to say I felt no envy as I watched the Stanleys speak their wisdom and describe their life.
I did feel regret though.
As I told DH about the segment afterwards, I was caught off guard by my voice cracking – and tears. DH was even more caught off guard. He asked me what was wrong, and I did my best to capture it. I was overcome by a sense that we had – not exactly wasted, but compromised so many years. We had lacked intention in building our lives – we had just gone with the flow in the absence of a plan. We hadn’t communicated well with each other, and we hadn’t been solidly rooted or united in values to guide our choices. We had been all over the map in terms of competing priorities. Our financial stress of a few years ago was certainly one major result of that fragmented approach to life.
Regret: a constructive role
“Live without regret,” is a popular piece of advice. It’s true that we can do nothing about the past, so there is no point in devoting too much energy to it. It’s so much better to channel that energy towards building the future we want – and starting from where we are right now. But it’s also true that regret about the past can serve a purpose. It emphasizes what it is we don’t want, so that we can recognize it and turn away. It’s not a bad thing to know what to avoid. I, for instance, know that I don’t want to be a passive bystander in my own life. I don’t want life to happen to me. I want to be proactive – intentional.
Starting from where you are
The regret that surfaced in particular for me was the fact that I had to give up being a stay-at-home mom – which I had been for a couple of years after the birth of our third daughter – because of the financial mess we had blindly set up for ourselves. And having to go back to work full-time – after having previously worked part-time – when I knew I wanted to be at home, resulted in my depression for several years. And I mean clinical.
DH eventually got on his feet with his business, and inspired to take down our debt after reading Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover, we started from where we were – and moved forward. Almost four years later, we’re in a much, much better place financially. The positive ripple effects have impacted our marriage for the better, and we’ve been heartened to see that they’ve impacted our children as well. We weren’t too late to make a difference for them. There’s a lot to be encouraged by.
So why the regret? Maybe it’s this time of year – the long winter still holding on in these parts, bringing on the winter blahs. Maybe it’s a need for rest- which DD3 and I will have next week with the March Break. Or maybe it’s that regret serves a purpose, and the timing was right for me to be reminded. I didn’t stay in it too long, and I’m harnessing that energy for a future of more intentional living. Of asserting healthy boundaries – or “guardrails” – to protect all that is important to me. So that I can live without regret.
Do you think that regret can play a positive role. Do you have any regrets that you have a hard time overcoming? Your comments are welcome.
*(Full disclosure with regards to my having given up TV: DH peer pressured me into watching one episode of the new House of Cards season with him when it came out. I was tired – and capitulated.)
*Photo courtesy of Simon Wright