We all have regrets about what we said and did. We regret to have an emotional outburst during a heated argument and we regret that we did not take good care of our bodies when we were young and strong. We feel remorse when the rumors that we spread caused pain and suffering to others and we feel remorse when we drove under the influence and caused injuries to others. We repent when our lies caused the loss of other people's lives and we repent when our wrongdoings ruined the livelihood of other people.
Our 7000 years of civilization are sustained and based on a set of codes of conduct that help minimize personal conflicts, encourage civil communication, and promote peaceful cooperation. Regret, remorse, and repent are the natural byproducts of those rules and regulations and are exerting a heavy toll on our mental health.
Most of our regrets are the results of our hindsight on whether we had said or done the right things. Most of our actions are spur-of-the-moment based on the best choice that we can come up with depending on the circumstance. We regret:
1) To call people names during a heated argument,
2) To break a promise to help a friend in need in order to take a vacation,
3) To lying about our real intention which is later exposed as unsavory,
4) To trust a person based on what the person is, not who the person is.
We realize that we cannot always follow the moral codes imposed on us. Sometimes, we just have to put our own interests above all else. We all have regrets and the only thing we can do is trying to learn from them and move on to face the challenges of the next day.
We are remorseful when what we said and did had caused psychological and physical harm to other people. Even though it is not our intention to cause those adverse consequences, our ignorance and misjudgment of people's feelings are the culprits. We are remorseful:
1) When our practical jokes resulted in other people’s physical injuries,
2) When our lies resulted in punishment for things that the other people did not do,
3) When we criticize our friend's view based on the person's shortcomings leading to a lifetime of animosity,
4) When our risky investments prevent our children from getting a good education.
We have many regrets in our life but only few remorses. Even though most of the happenings are a twist of fate, the traumatic experiences will end up changing the ways we live.
We all have some regrets and few remorses in our life. However, not that many people have the urge to repent over what they said and did. It usually depends on how severe the consequences of our deliberated actions were and on what intentions behind our actions were:
1) A serial killer with many victims on one’s hands may never repent because the killer thinks that one is just fulfilling one’s calling,
2) A busted financial Ponzi schemer whose deception ruined the life of many innocent clients may repent for one’s treachery because behind the bar, one can feel the pain of the victims having to spend the rest of one’s life with nothing and no hope,
3) A drunk driver may repent for one's drinking problem when a traffic accident caused the life of not only other people but also one's family members,
4) A habitual gossiper whose inflated rumors that are spiced with other people’s private affairs and character assassinations had ruined many people's lives, may not repent for the damages and miseries one caused, because some people are amoral and do not take the responsibility seriously.
It is hard to imagine a world without regret, remorse, and repent. We will be no different from the rest of the animals in Nature. Nothing is going to hold us back on our emotional outburst, insatiable lust, and boundless greed. There will be no justification to do the right thing, kindness will be taken advantage of, and forgiveness invites more bullying.
Regret, remorse, and repent also are responsible for a lot of mental problems. We are in constant battle within ourselves whether we should do the right thing or give in to our physical desires. Only when we can find a balance between both conditions, we may be able to avoid depression, anxiety, paranoia, and loss of sleep. Mental stress is just a small price we have to pay to co-exist harmoniously in a world where people from all walks of life are trying to eke out a livelihood the best way we know-how.