Thursday, January 20, 2011

No Retreat, No Regrets Part I

In the previous post, I talked about a certain form of self-deception. Preparation. How we tend to believe we are prepared in our hearts and heads for some impending experience or emotion, and how, too often, those preparations are lacking in some degree.

Another famous trick I/we tend to play upon our unsuspecting self is addressed by the infamous tagline, "No Regrets"....

Each of us have thought or spoken the cliche phrase at some point in our life, whether it was with a Sharpie in a high school yearbook that smells like fresh ink and hormones, or in our thoughts on the past while New Year's fireworks crowded the stars. I would also say that many of us believed it....or at least voiced it like we did--with a bravado that would have made politicians jealous.

"I don't have any regrets."

"I don't regret nothing."

"Regrets? What are those?"

((Some alteration of this phrase depending on your speech pattern and communication skill.))


Before we continue. Let's attempt a definition.

Regret is an emotion most closely synonymous to guilt. Regret only exists when one's own actions are being considered.
  • For example, I cannot regret the punishment of an innocent man, when I had nothing to do with his trial. I can, however, regret my action of providing false evidence against that same man. A man I knew to be innocent.
  • I cannot regret the alienation faced by new students at schools across the country. I can, however, regret my own ridiculing actions against my freckled classmate in middle school.
Regret is based on our actions, yet it is also impacted by the consequences of those actions.
Positive consequences, or those which seem at least neutral, are easily accepted by our conscience, even if the actions which created them were disgusting. However, negative consequences following negative actions, create the sickening, nauseating feeling we label "regret".
  • If the innocent man is freed through some unforeseen act of Fate, I will sleep much better than I would if the judge had recommended the death sentence. My action, providing false evidence, is the same, but the consequence makes all the difference.
  • If the child I bullied in middle school grows up to be the head of a multi-billion dollar corporation, I will not regret my actions on a moral level. I may, in my terrific selfishness, regret them because they will ruin any chance at sharing in his success. However, if the offended child suffers through high school until a necktie ends his life in a dark closet, my regret will be very real and very deep, indeed.

One more thing about regret, and this will touch briefly on a point made at a later time, is that regret is very much like a parasite or a disease in that we can be carriers without exhibiting any of the symptoms. We may have the ingredients (Negative action + Negative consequence), but the actual regret remains dormant until sometime in the near or distant future. I may commit an act at age 7, but I may not feel regret for that act until age 54. This is because the possibility of regret is constantly changing with our personal maturity and development. And, compounding this fact, some consequences take years to reach their darkest fruition.
  • I may not hear about the innocent man's electrocution until I am an old man, far removed from the ethically-starved lawyer of my youth.
  • I may not discover the truth about "Freckle Face" until I graduate from college and return home and see the headline in a newsstand outside the Shell station.

((Another side of the coin which says our chances for regret are constantly evolving, deals with our maturing sense of ethics and morality. This is perhaps my weakest point, but I think there is some basis, especially when one considers the retrospection exhibited by many elderly people. The sunset of life can often be a time when the brightest colors and darkest shadows are all that remains. In this time, after lessons have been learned and morals discovered, one might glance back on the spectrum of events and feel regret over a scenario otherwise forgotten or dismissed as unimportant. A shadowed memory rather than a sunny remembrance. This regret is only possible because of the wisdom attained through experience, research, study, introspection, etc. Without this knowledge, there is no possibility for regret. Yet another support beam for the "Ignorance is Bliss" platform.))


This is most definitely a working definition. I have undoubtedly left out important characteristics which some of you may recognize. I may even be completely wrong about my approach. If so, please post your remarks and corrections below, or give me a rhetorical backhand next time I see you. With love, of course. Be gentle for you tread on my dreams....or perhaps just my wandering thoughts....which are not quite as fragile.

I think we can all agree, regardless of your acceptance of my own definition, regret is one of the rare times when we look back on our personal past and pinpoint a decision, an action, a thought, and feel a negative emotion. Most of the time, we shift that negative emotion onto someone else or some other thing (blame, justification, etc), but regret. Ah, regret. We feel the sting....that is....if we allow Honesty to enter the courtroom and send Pride out like an unruly juror.


Now that we have defined regret, there are no doubt a variety of arguments for and against regret as an acceptable or unacceptable response to our past.

Regret as Unacceptable: What's done is done. You cannot change the past. Why spend your time, energy, and emotion, fretting about things you cannot change?

Regret as Acceptable: Can we really think of an instance in our past, a mistake which we know directly caused another person pain, emotionally or physically, and not feel some amount of sorrow? Some amount of responsibility which we experience through guilt?

((on the surface, I find myself most closely associated with the second instance. It is true we must not cling to the past. We must not allow our mistakes to drag us down to the point where our present and future selves are useless. However, it is not possible for the human mind to purposefully forget an action or event. Our personal past is inscribed in our mind just as the historical past is inscribed on stone and paper. It is a common sentiment to learn from history in order to avoid making the same mistakes. An aspiring dictator would do well to study the failure of previous totalitarian rulers, just as I would do well to remember my own personal failures in order to become a better version of myself. I will end this rabbit trail by reminding the key factor is Moderation. Balance. An obsession with past faults only creates misery, while an absolution of the past creates a repetitive cycle of mistakes))


I will not deal at length with which side I find myself supporting. As I said earlier, I lean toward the usefulness of an amount of regret and recognition of past errors. I know this because I struggle with regrets. I look back on my life and wish I had done things differently. Now. I will separate that confession into two camps.

1. The first camp deals with regret over actions committed which hurt someone.
2. The second camp deals with regret over actions which I feel ruined the personal attainment of positive things--happiness, relationships, success, accomplishments.

We have already discussed a definition of the first sort and included examples which may or may not have helped with understanding. It is ironic (and unplanned) that so much time was spent on the first, because it was my intention to limit this post to the second idea. My thoughts for this post originated in the boiling discomfort of the soul when one looks back at a period in time and fears that personal actions (or lack thereof) kept one from boarding a train bound for bliss and beauty.

I am sure I am not the only one to feel such a nauseating impulse:

A---> It is the feeling after meeting someone beautiful and regretting the stupid speech you gave on the mating habits of the North American tree sloth....I am NOT speaking from experience. It is a hyperbolic example to prove a point.

B---> It is the feeling after an interview when you remember one aspect of your personal character which never made it onto your resume.

C---> It is the feeling after leaving someone you love and wondering if you should have stayed.

I include the last example, not to create a morose, romantic sympathy in the reader, but to express the depth this emotion can reach. Sure, there are silly times, but there are also real times. Earth-shattering times. Future-destroying times. Times when you honestly do not know how you could have been so stupid, harsh, or selfish. Times when you see that moment in your mind's eye and wish before God and man to return and do it again.

This regret is not concerned with self-transformation but with self-correction. This regret is not concerned with learning from the past, but with redoing the past. And since we humans can redo our past about as well as an oak tree can reenter an acorn, this regret is pointless.

I find it odd that I struggle much more with this form of regret than with the other. I am not sure of the reasons for this, but I can assure you I aim to investigate the matter and bring the guilty character traits to justice. be continued

((Any kind of investigation is useless outside of Scripture. The discovery, if I made one at all, would very likely shock and disturb, rather than challenge or encourage. I am struggling with tackling too many things at one time, but I really would like to include some thoughts from God about regret and where it fits with His plan for our thoughts and emotions.

If you have any thoughts of your own, or if you know of any places in the Bible that deal with regret, please let me know.))

Saturday, January 15, 2011


What's the point.

Sometimes I think that preparation is another way of lying to yourself. A way of convincing yourself you are stronger than you really are. You are better. Over it. Safe. Secure.

But the problem with preparation is that it only lasts until the event occurs, until whatever it is you were preparing for happens, and then you find out, in fact, you were not at all prepared. You find out you were only telling yourself that so it didn't hurt, so it didn't loom in the distance like an iceberg waiting to sink the ship on which all your ideas of yourself and the world were sailing with optimism only ignorance can create.

I don't mean to sound too morose. Or despairing.

I guess I mean to sound realistic.

How many of us have made preparations and then watched them fall with a glance, a word, a breath.

Apply it to anything. Life in general. The future. For six years, I 'prepared' myself for a career, and a year and a half afterward I'm still working part time at a restaurant, up to my elbows in dirty dishes.

But it's not just confined to the physical life. You can prepare yourself emotionally for news you know is bound to come, but the REALITY of that event--the black and bloody existence--is what is truly difficult. Before reality, before the thing occurs, we are fighting a shadow. Naturally, we are going to feel prepared. Naturally, we are going to think we can overcome and awake on the other side a stronger person. We are creating the image in our head, we are playing chess with our self, and we win every time. Only a pessimist walks through life with the belief every conflict will be lost, every bad thing will break a heart.

So where does this leave us.

Do we prepare. Do we board up the mental windows and doors before the storm hits, or do we cower in the corner as the sky turns black and the wind grows from a whisper to a howl.

I think you know the answer. I think I know the answer.

We must prepare.

But we must not trust our preparations for salvation. We must dig the moats, raise the drawbridge, boil the oil, but we must realize these are not solutions. They will not keep all the arrows at bay. They will not deter every invader. We must look beyond our own defenses for survival. We must look beyond our ability to analyze, to predict, to decipher, because really, all of these are based simply on our best guess. We don't know what reality awaits. We do not know what follows behind the dark shadow in our mind.

Yet again, this is another part of my life experience where I am directed to God. Honestly, my frame of mind when I started this post was far from positive. My frame of mind was sad, frustrated, disappointed, embarrassed. I was writing blind, bleeding words onto the page, writing my thoughts like a runaway train. They led me here. To the realization that my human preparations are futile without the presence of Someone bigger than myself and bigger than reality.

I honestly do not know how I would approach the pointlessness of the human experience without my relationship to God, without my faith in His sovereignty. I think the hopelessness of my own actions in tragedy's cruel wake would be enough to drive me to severe depression.

I. Need. God.

We all do.

Everything is vain without Him.

So prepare. Build those walls. Guard your hearts. Get everything in order.

But remember preparations are only as good as the one who makes them.


Psalm 20:7
Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.

Psalm 9:10
And those who know your name put their trust in you,for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you.

Psalm 28:7
The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults,and with my song I give thanks to him.

Psalm 44:6
For not in my bow do I trust,nor can my sword save me.

Psalm 118:8
It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man.

Proverbs 28:26
Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool,but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.

Isaiah 26:4
Trust in the LORD forever,for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.

Jeremiah 39:18
For I will surely save you, and you shall not fall by the sword, but you shall have your life as a prize of war, because you have put your trust in me, declares the LORD.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Brief Draft of a Lengthy Manifesto

I have given up trying to be consistent with the form of documentation known as—The Blog. I don’t know why some people find it easy to schedule a time in the morning, afternoon, or evening to update the “world” on their activities and thoughts, and yet I think of it rarely and with less than some eagerness. If I was to name a few reasons for my personal difficulty, I think the first would deal with my awareness of my own unimportance. Most of the time, I do not think I’m very important….and I don’t mean this in a “nobody loves me, everybody hates me” sense, I just mean that my voice does not seem that interesting to me. My actions, thoughts, desires, ideas, hopes, fears, observations, jokes, do not really intrigue me. I would much rather read the insight of another than offer my own. Which is ironic, really, considering my intention and passion toward writing in general. Perhaps I should work on this aspect of my psyche. Perhaps.

However, all of this being said, I am wondering if a series of events in my life may have somehow impacted my outlook on this forever. The events themselves are not necessarily unimportant, but including them here would only confuse a great many of you, and I am sure most of these said events will become known in time, whether through this or some other medium.

I owe a great amount of this change, this opening of my thoughts, to God and His constant devotion. Through a time of shadow, He has shown me how bright the Light of Heaven is able to shine. Through a time of suffering, He has offered me the power and healing of His wonderful faithfulness. Those occasions when I actually take time to gravely consider the level of His sacrifice and the extent of His love, I am in a state of unspeakable awe.

Those times, those minutes of absolute peace and complete hope, are impossible to express. Words and ideas will always fall short until the day when my perfect mind and body are prostrate before His throne. However, there are other things in my spirit, other thoughts and questions and doubts and trials and joys and blessings that I will be able to share, and for the first time, I am going to attempt to share with whomever.

While this entire post serves as an introduction, a sort of explanation of my thoughts toward the idea of authorship, I will reiterate here the sentiment which might have slipped through the lines. It is with great hesitation that I approach spiritual thoughts and discourse. I am not one to rant upon a moment’s notice. Some of my writing is spontaneous and ridiculous, even uninteresting and ignorant. But everything from my flawed mind, mouth, or hands that deals with ideas of God and His Kingdom is expressed with incredible humility. My heart’s desire is to reflect spiritual truth and edify my audience, not as an inspired author, but as a sinner who God saved with the blood of the Son and then marked with a passion for writing.

So. Whether you are reading something fictitious or real, something humorous or somber, something simple or profound, something brief or lengthy, should you happen to be on this blog or see my name attached to the piece in some other location, remember every good word, every ounce of truth, comes down from the Father of Lights. Everything else—the dents, scratches, and imperfections—is the unfortunate byproduct of my humanity.

God Bless, Restore, Enhance, Strengthen, and otherwise Transform your entire existence,