AS TO YOUR PAST REGRETS, REMEMBER THERE’S NOTHING YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT NOW

AS TO YOUR PAST REGRETS, REMEMBER THERE’S NOTHING YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT NOW

I was listening to Willie Nelson sing the song There is Nothing I Can Do About it Now on my car radio and thought about the wisdom that used to be written in poems and short stories, but are now so often written in song. It struck me how on target the lyrics were about our past regrets, the "if only" worries about the past which are now out of our control. Much as been written Willie nelsonabout it. 

John Greenleaf Whittier, in his poem Maud Muller wrote:

God pity them both! and pity us all, 
Who vainly the dreams of youth recall.

For of all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these: “It might have been!”

We spend time dealing with regret over things we did and things we wish we hadn’t have done.

 

The best description of this torment is Margaret Sangster’s poem The Sin of Omission.

It isn't the thing you do, dear;
It's the thing you leave undone,
Which gives you a bit of heartache
At the setting of the sun.
The tender word forgotten,
The letter you did not write,
The flower you might have sent, dear,
Are your haunting ghosts to-night.

The stone you might have lifted
Out of a brother's way,
The bit of heartsome counsel
You were hurried too much to say;
The loving touch of the hand, dear,
The gentle and winsome tone,
That you had no time nor thought for,
With troubles enough of your own.

…And it's not the thing you do, dear,
It's the thing you leave undone,
Which gives you the bit of heartache
At the setting of the sun.

We can’t live life without making mistakes. Some big and some small. In the song Legend in My Time this reality is clearly explained:

"If heartaches brought fame in love's crazy game, I'd be a legend in my time. If they gave gold statuettes for tears and regrets, I'd be a legend in my time." 

These are the things that can torment us – the things we would like to change in our past life. As the writer Ted Chiang has written: “Four things do not come back: the spoken word, the spent arrow, the past life, and the neglected opportunity.”  It is the inability to change the past that gives us anxiety over our past conduct and decisions. As it so correctly is written in the Omar Khayyam:

“The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.” 

Willie Nelson sings the song There is Nothing I Can Do About it Now and the lyrics express a sound philosophy for viewing our past with regrets.

I've got a long list of real good reasons
For all the things I've done
I've got a picture in the back of my mind
Of what I've lost and what I've won
I've survived every situation
Knowing when to freeze and when to run
And regret is just a memory written on my brow
And there's nothing I can do about it now.

And I could cry for the time I've wasted
But that's a waste of time and tears,
And I know just what I'd change
If went back in time somehow
But there's nothing I can do about it now

But there's nothing I can do about it now.

I'm forgiving everything that forgiveness will allow
And there's nothing I can do about it now

The song is right. We can't do anything about the past except to learn from our mistakes and try to make up for any harm we caused by what we do in the future. Regret and guilt are appropriate reactions to sin and mistake, but not when it impairs the present. We need to benefit from our past experiences, but using them as lessons for improvement. 

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