FARGO — Karl Pillemer is a gerontologist at Cornell University. In 2011, he and his team interviewed 1,500 adults over the age of 65, asking them what haunts them the most about their life choices. He then wrote a book called "30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans."
Here are the biggest regrets of those interviewed:
• Not being careful enough when choosing a life partner.
• Not resolving a family conflict or estrangement. Almost all of those interviewed who faced a rift with their child wished they had tried harder to reconcile, ask for forgiveness, apologize or try to communicate before it was too late.
• Putting off saying how you feel. Many older men regret not sharing their feelings with others more often.
• Spending too much time worrying about things that never happened and things they had no control over. The older we get the more precious we realize time is.
• Not being honest.
• Not taking enough career chances.
• Not taking care of your body.
Some regrets are massive. Others are rather small. But, if we pause long enough to reflect, we all have some regrets. Some regrets we can laugh about; others bring a knot to our stomach or a tear to our eye. They aren't funny at all. They are still raw and painful. We try to forget them, but they still weigh us down.
Dave and Jon Ferguson wrote a book called "Starting Over: Your Life Beyond Regrets." This month at Prairie Heights we are exploring this critical topic. It is very easy to get caught in an unhealthy cycle, paralyzed over our regrets for years, without finding a healing path forward.
Melanie Greenberg is a practicing psychologist, author, speaker and life coach, with more than 20 years of experience as a clinician, professor and researcher. She says, "Regret can have damaging effects on mind and body; when regret turns into rumination and a self-blame, it keeps us from fully engaging in life."
The Fergusons describe how, with God's perspective and his help, rather than getting trapped in an unhealthy cycle, we can learn to love that regret and regain freedom and hope for the future. Regret can actually be seen and leveraged as an opportunity to start over. If that is true, and I believe it is, what an incredible joy and blessing that would be.
One of Jesus Christ's closest friends, Peter, betrayed Jesus three times at the moment Jesus needed Peter the most, after Jesus was arrested. Peter's response to his sin and failure was to weep bitterly. Peter was faced with the regret of a lifetime. Would Peter allow this regret to define him and defeat him? It did for a season, but in the book of John, chapter 21, Jesus helped Peter start over in three ways:
• Jesus confirms Peter's relationship
• Jesus continues Peter's purpose
• Jesus completes Peter's restoration
Peter denied Jesus three time, so three times Jesus asked him, "Do you love me?" Jesus doesn't just partially heal us. He heals us all the way.
When we face regret, we need restoration. And that must start with restoration with our heavenly father through his one and only son, Jesus Christ. It's never too late or too soon to start over.