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December 13, 2013


The subject of regrets seems to be in the news a lot lately. Last week, the Editorial Staff linked to a study that claimed that men's and women's sexual regrets were very different:

The linked article describes a study of sexual regret in which men's regrets focused on not being adventurous enough (hey! aren't men supposed to be naturally more adventurous???) and women's on having been too adventurous (hey! aren't women supposed to... oh, never mind). The study suggests several possible interpretations, but if you believe that biology (and not culture or incentives) is primarily responsible for observed differences in male and female behavior, the study could be viewed as evidence supporting the nature side of the nature vs. nurture debate.

At the time, we wondered yet again if it's weird not to have any major regrets one way or another? Certainly there are things that, were we to live out our younger years all over again, we might pass up given the advantage of hindsight. But regret seems like an awfully strong term to describe such a vague possibility. Our mistakes become part of the people we will one day become, and we're not entirely sure we'd change a thing.

So we found it somewhat interesting when we ran across this list of the 25 most common regrets and - once again - couldn't identify with the vast majority of them. Out of 25, we only identified with 4 of them: 11, 21, 24, and 25.

Not sure they're even serious regrets. Just things we might do differently if given a do-over knowing what we know now.

Question for the ages: does not having a lot of strong regrets make one intellectually incurious and complacent? Or well adjusted and balanced? Or - more likely - does it all depend on the person and situation?

We've never seen the point in regret. The past is past and every day offers new chances to change course.

Posted by Cassandra at December 13, 2013 05:02 AM

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It's good for me to figure out what I would like to have done differently and use that as a guide for what to do in the future - and a guide to any reparations I might need to make. I'd express this as, "I did this, I've have done better to do that, I'll fix anything that needs fixing as best I can, and I'll remember this lesson in the future."

I'm not sure that's really regret though. I think of regret as holding onto "I wish I had..." and for me that way of thinking can be very self-indulgent and not at all helpful to me or anyone around me.

So if what we mean by regrets is thinking I've never done anything I could have done better, I'd vote for complacent. If what we mean by regret is not wasting time and energy on something that can't be changed, I'd vote for well-adjusted and balanced.

A few years ago, someone made a great comment about getting over regrets:

We have to give up our hopes for a better past.


Posted by: Elise at December 13, 2013 12:58 PM

Well, I sort of regret that one night in Panama City, Panama. Nah, not really, wild is also part of life.

Ah, to be young and stupid again. :)

Posted by: Allen at December 13, 2013 01:36 PM

I think of regret as holding onto "I wish I had..." and for me that way of thinking can be very self-indulgent and not at all helpful to me or anyone around me.

That was exactly the thought I had when reading the article on sexual regrets. I don't regret NOT doing anything, really. In retrospect, those occasions when I decided not to do something as a young person turned out that way for very good reasons that look even better to me now that I'm older/more responsible/just more tired.

And the stupid things I did do, which were plentiful and which I might pass up now - being older and hopefully a bit smarter - didn't turn out all that badly either. Maybe that's why I don't really regret them all that much :p

Posted by: Cassandra at December 13, 2013 01:57 PM

Regrets, I have many. But they are as much a part of me as my successes. We don't get to choose the when and where of our lessons in life. We only get to choose what we learn and in which direction we face when all is said and done. Life impells us, but we get choose the colors that weave our life's tapestry.

Posted by: DL Sly at December 13, 2013 02:39 PM


I've had a few.

But then again, too few to mention.

Posted by: My Waaaaaaaaay at December 13, 2013 03:11 PM

Smarty :)

I knew if I thought about this, I'd dredge up a few regrets and sure enough, I did.

They all have the same three themes: times when I was self-centered (IOW, I failed to think how my actions would affect others), times when I lacked sympathy for someone who deserved it, and times when I failed to do what I knew to be right.

That last one is a real killer. It's amazing how good we are at "forgetting" things that make us feel bad about ourselves.

I have almost no regrets of the "Gosh, I wish I had had that threesome with the Smothers' Brothers in a Lear jet at 40,000 feet" type. But I do regret the times in my life when I've been a colossal jackwagon.

On the other hand, remorse can be a great motivator :p

Posted by: Debbie Downer (aka Cass) at December 13, 2013 04:13 PM

Are you, by any chance, from Dallas?

Posted by: Evil Twin at December 13, 2013 05:09 PM

Oh, 18, and 24, and a furball of 5-14-16 about one girl long ago. I understand, now, what happened, can't fix it, can't atone for it, explaining would only hurt her again, at best, and so I can't even really apologize for what I did to her (and to me.) Those hearts and dreams were shattered long ago, and I'm just going to have to deal with the shame and guilt and infinitely sharp shards by myself, just as she tried to, long ago. Remorse is a monster than can consume you: I'm escaping, but it was close for a couple of months. Star-crossed love is in ourselves, indeed, and you don't want to go near it.

Posted by: htom at December 13, 2013 05:26 PM

Regrets are like resentments in that dwelling on them, beyond learning the appropriate lesson for future behavior, is at best unproductive and at worst corrosive.

Posted by: CAPT Mike at December 15, 2013 10:33 PM

Are you, by any chance, from Dallas?

*groan* :)

Posted by: Cass at December 16, 2013 08:27 AM

Wow. I've regretted all of those things, and a few dozen more not mentioned. Regrets are a normal human response missed opportunities, which we work in to the calculus of future decision making. For example: "Gee, next time I won't leave any witnesses."

Posted by: spd rdr at December 16, 2013 10:51 AM

Having left that comment above, for the last two days I've felt a lot better (or at least not nearly as tormented.) Confession is good for the soul? A trouble shared is a trouble halved? A festering psychological wound finally draining? Whichever.

Posted by: htom at December 16, 2013 10:42 PM