In my post “What I Believe”, there is an affirmation that says “I believe in doing the most, what I’ll regret the least.” This philosophy goes hand-in-hand with the statement: “I believe regrets are grudges I hold against myself.” These two ideas are like bookends that keep the direction of my life organized, upright, and on purpose. My past has proven that the presence of regret equals an urge to manufacture excuses. Once I’ve done something I knew wasn’t supposed to, I’d feel compelled to justify why it happened, leading to a defensive posture. As soon as I’ve done something someone else knows I shouldn’t have, and they point it out, I’ve been known to take an offensive stand. Both times I’ve sought to excuse my behavior.
I live my life in two modes, action and reaction, or offensive and defensive. They have their place, but one should not be favored over the other. They compliment with strength and harmony when properly mixed. The people who do this skillfully lead well-adjusted lives. They are easy to pay attention to and quick to listen. A balanced approach attracts, while the unbalanced delivery repels. No one likes those who are too defensive. Neither do they take kindly to those who are overly offensive. People who play the defender claim to be constantly victimized, and those who play the offender claim to be forever insulted. In either case neither person generates respect or trust from those around them. Each example must come up with constant excuses in order to continue their theatrics, or the behavior will not persist. I should know, I’ve visited the two sides with great frequency over the years.
If the erasure of regret equals the disappearance of excuses, then I say bring it on. Without regret, I cannot own or operate being either patsy or aggressor. This does not mean I’m not opinionated or that I won’t stand up for what I believe that is right and good. What it does mean is that I’ll move forward with the attitude of doing the most what I’ll regret the least. When I find myself at an intersection, the only question that must be asked is, “what will I regret doing?” I then avoid moving in those directions. As soon as I choose a lesser way, and create regret, then I begin to hold a grudge against my own actions. Those actions that we hold grudges against, we feel the need to punish. If I do the same to myself, then I’ll inevitably seek out some sort of punishment–mostly unaware I’m even doing it. This is a primary root of self-destructive behavior. ALL self-destructive behavior needs excuses to survive, so it stands to reason that it will consistently choose the lesser of two (or more) destinations in order to perpetuate its existence.
When I feel the impulse to defend, I do my best to use it by helping someone else, especially if they are not present. I’ve noticed people are more willing go into attack mode when there is no chance of retribution from the focus of their argument. Rarely will I defend a personal agenda. If what’s being threatened is my safety, only then will I not hold back. On the other hand, I’m rarely offended. I’ve chosen a few items over the years I want changed, and these I’ll let offend me. Nothing gets better unless I become dissatisfied with how things are, so this attitude is useful when an action follows that’s designed to improve something. I never do anything that undermines someone else’s quality of life just so mine can get better. Looking at both actions, I will of course avoid doing anything that would lead to a regret.
I think all of us have had episodes of supreme confidence. When I’m in these moments I move forward without complaining or explaining. No excuses, just action. “Don’t complain, don’t explain” is a very famous and useful saying. It helps eliminate other people’s opinions, bad OR good, and keeps me focused on the task at hand. When the thoughts of others are eliminated, then there’s no need to argue (defend) or no need to listen (take a chance on being offended.) There are, of course some people in my life I want feedback from, but there are VERY few.
All I know is, I’m not going to be laying in my death-bed and allow the last words of my life begin with the line “It’s too bad I didn’t…..” A life lived without regret is one of the greatest freedoms we can seek. It’s absence serves to eliminate pain and helps to invite serenity.
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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood