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A penny for your thoughts? This phrase goes back to the year 1522 when a penny’s value was much higher than it is now. The question is frequently asked of a person who appears unusually quiet, distracted, or lost in thought. Usually, the one asking the question cares intimately about the person whom they address. Distraction and nostalgia come easy at this time of the year with Christmas carols ringing and stringed lights twinkling. The nostalgia of warm memories connects us to people we love. However, there are times, especially during the holiday season, when thoughts concerning regret and forgiveness weigh down our memories. ‘Tis the season for nostalgic memories, summarizing our years and ascribing significance to our relationships, work, and life.
The duo of regret and forgiveness is a common pairing of challenging and painful concerns. Although forgiveness is one of the most beautiful and powerful concepts central to Christianity, it isn’t always easy to practice. It is hard to forgive others who have offended us, but it can be even more difficult to forgive ourselves. It’s difficult because there are emotional layers attached to how we think about the offense. People report experiencing emotions of embarrassment, sadness, anger, guilt, and shame. Some of the accompanying thoughts, such as resentment and retribution, further complicate our ability to forgive. How often we think about the event(s) and how we feel about the event may lock us in a cycle of emotional turmoil and imprisonment. We may unconsciously reject any possibility or responsibility to think or feel differently about a person or situation.
Reflect for a moment on the following questions:
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you are likely experiencing regret. Regret can either paralyze you or move you to action. As with almost everything, you have options. Do you have to forgive? No, you can choose not to. However, like Dr. Seuss’s famous character, The Grinch, this decision will debilitate you, weigh you down, and keep you locked into thoughts and feelings of negativity. It is much easier to hold onto regret, anger, and feelings of disappointment that match your disposition. However, hope, resilience, redemption, and renewal can spring from your decision to forgive. Forgiveness is an immensely powerful process. Forgiveness and faith can transform your physical and mental health and your relationship with God, self, and others.
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”Matthew 18:21-22, NIV
Regret leads us to “what if” questions:
“What if I had done something different?”
“What if I had stayed?”
Regret yields recurring, intrusive, heart-wrenching, energy-zapping brain activity that can make us like Scrooge, whose outlook on life robbed him of the ability to enjoy life. So let’s consider doing something different.
Save your penny for next week! In part 2 of this topic, I’ll show you how to invest in forgiveness.
Until next week!
Dr. Marie Yvette Hernandez-Seltz is the founder of Candescent Counseling, Consulting & Coaching. She holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and an M.S. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology. She has spent the past 15 years studying self-esteem, self-confidence, responsibility, and the effects of environment and culture on the individual.