Friday, December 30, 2011

Remorse Or Regret

Sometimes, when a year ends, it’s almost provokes the kinds of thoughts you get as you get older and nearing the end of life.  You look back and think about what you have done and haven’t done and sometimes you have feelings of remorse or regret.  Many times I have heard the question posed: when you die, what would you rather not have, remorse or regrets?  People always seem to answer “regrets.”  Am I the only one who answers “remorse?”  Maybe my definition of the two words is different from everyone else’s?  Of course, ideally, no one wants to have either regrets or remorse. But, as long as we are living and human, we are going to make mistakes or decisions that may end up taking us down one of these two roads.

For me, the word regret is not as serious as remorse. I may regret doing or not doing certain things. I may regret the consequences of some actions that were unintended, but I can live with it or die with it, without being tormented.  I may regret not trying skydiving. But so what if I never went skydiving?  Maybe I would have hurt myself?  Maybe I ended up doing something more important? I can regret not skydiving, but it doesn’t eat away at me.  I can regret going to Wildwood, New Jersey on vacation. Almost any place else would have been better. But I don’t regret the time I spent with my family there. You win some, you lose some. And, in the end, when you rank all your vacations, one of them has to be the worst. I can live with choosing Wildwood, even though I regret it. I regret that some of the things I have said to my children or others, that may have hurt their feelings. But, if those things were well intentioned and for their own good, I don’t regret having said them. We are all going to have regrets, things we are sorry for, it’s unavoidable, but not devastating.

Remorse is like regret, but on a more serious level. When I think of remorse, I think of a deep sadness and guilt. For me, remorse is about doing something wrong.  It’s about making a bad decision that causes harm and something you would not repeat if you could go back in time.  It’s something you reproach yourself for doing. It can eat away at you if it’s not made right. Remorse is more aligned with morality, in my mind which is why it causes so much sorrow and guilt.  Regret is wishing you had done something differently, while remorse is knowing and acknowledging the shame of doing something wrong. Remorse is not something I could live with, nor would I want to die with the weight of it on my conscience.

So when people answer they rather die without regrets than remorse, it always amazes me. I don’t understand it.  I’d rather have a ton of regrets than one thing I feel remorseful for.  Maybe one of you out there can explain it to me?  Is my thinking off base?

In any case, looking back on 2011, I have nothing to be remorseful for and, if I think long and hard enough I might find a few regrets. For example, I regret not sticking to my diet, but that will be something I can changed in 2012.  I’m not losing sleep over it. Besides, if I died with ten extra pounds, so what, who cares.  

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