A Life Without Regret is a Life Without Love


Earl Partridge is 65 years old and laying on his deathbed. He knows he is minutes away from breathing his last breath, yet he is still holding out hope that he will see his long-estranged son one last time. As he faces the inevitable, he tells his caregiver:

“Don't ever let anyone ever say to you, ‘You shouldn't regret anything.’ Don't do that. Don't! You regret what you #$%*$# want!”

We could all benefit from this advice from the incredibly profound (and equally vulgar) 1999 film, Magnolia. The overwhelming message of our culture is "live life without regrets," and a quick look at our t-shirts, tattoos, social-media posts, and behavior reveals that we have adopted that message as our own. Yet when we face death – like Earl Partridge – will we be pleased that we lived life without regrets?

I sincerely hope not.

Because a regretless life is a loveless life. In this blog we will look at two reasons why.

@@A regretless life is a loveless life@@

1. If you love other people, your life will be filled with regrets.

We like to say that we don't regret the actions of our past because we learn so much about ourselves and about life in general through our mistakes. This is true. But in the process, we do significant damage to other people.

You may have learned a lot from that poor decision you made, but your poor decision negatively affected other people. Is your lesson more valuable than they are?

You may have learned a lot from that foolish action you took, but that foolish action emotionally damaged other people. Is their pain a necessary casualty on the road to your learning?

Perhaps you have grown significantly because of those harsh words you spoke, but those harsh words are still affecting how others feel about themselves and their lives. Is the benefit of your growth worth the cost of their peace?

If you say you don't regret anything, you are saying you don't regret the pain your words, actions, and decisions have caused other people. In other words, you are saying you love yourself much more than you love other people.


2. If you love God, your life will be filled with regrets.

Just as most of our "mistakes" have human victims, all of our "mistakes" have a Divine victim. With every sinful action, foolish decision, and harsh word we personally offend the God who created us to reflect his image to the world. We use the free gifts God has given us (life, mind, body, speech, relationships) to serve our will and deny His. This is why David, after a series of particularly heinous actions, wrote "Against you, you only, have I sinned" (Psalm 51:4).

So, yes, you may have grown from every one of your "mistakes" (a better word would be "sins"). But in each one you also committed an act of supreme rebellion against the God who made you, sustains you, and sent his only Son to redeem you.

Is that not worthy of regret?

If not, why not?

If you say you don't regret anything, you are saying you don't regret serving yourself as god in place of serving the God who has freely given you every good thing. In other words, you are saying you love yourself more than your Creator.



Our culture may tell us that regret is bad and undesirable, but God himself tells us that regret is good and desirable. In fact, he loves it so much that he included King David's famous expression of regret in the book of Psalms, a book designed to guide the worship of the people of God. David writes,

"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite (regretful) heart, O God, you will not despise" (Psalm 51:17).

Through this passage God teaches us that regret is not only the right response to past mistakes, it is the worshipful response. It is the loving response.

You may fear that to live a life filled with regret is a joyless life. But the opposite is true. To live a life filled with regret is to live a life aware of how much you have been forgiven by both God and others - and how much you have grown as a result - which produces joy, gratitude, and a life filled with meaning. A regretful life is a not a fear-driven or guilt-driven life, it is a love-driven life.

@@A regretful life is not a fear-driven or guilt-driven life, it is a love-driven life@@

Cole Brown is a Humble Beast author and speaker. He is the founding pastor of Emmaus Church, a multi-ethnic church in Portland, and now serves as a missionary helping plant churches in Mexico City, Mexico. Connect with him on twitter or  facebook.


Image credit to flickr user banjo d: https://flic.kr/p/a3RCEY. Image slightly modified.