Trigger Questions

Are you feeling remorse or regret?

Trigger Question #144 — reading time: about 1.9 minutes

“I’m here to warn you: Do it or regret it later.”

(Reader beware: This is a rather pensive missive. Blame Thanksgiving month. Thanksgiving is a time to appreciate what you are thankful for. I suggest you also appreciate what you are sorry for.)

Sorry. Not Sorry.

Do you know what older people, like me, often say about life? We are more likely to say we are sorry for what we did not do. And less sorry for what we did.

Christopher Hitchens distinguishes between remorse and regret. (Hitchens was an author, journalist, and a few other things that annoyed many people. But he was a clear thinker, loved by many.) Here’s what he said:

“I distinguish remorse from regret in that remorse is sorrow for what one did do whereas regret is misery for what one did not do.”

Time. No Time.

Hitchens has crossed over to the other side. If you are reading this, you are still here. And thus able to do something about your remorse and regret.

Younger people still have time to prevent regret for not doing something today from making them miserable some future day. Or so they casually believe.

Older people have less leeway to limit regret. Age narrows our options and expands our misery over what we did not do. There is not much we can do today about the career not taken, the lover jilted, the vacation delayed, the family gathering ignored, the fill-in-the-gap as it applies to you.

Did. Won’t Do.

At least, we older people have the courage to cope with remorse. How? By humbly acknowledging that, based on what we know today, we would choose to not do what we did back then. And to use the courage of age to apologize, to ask for forgiveness, to make right what we can.

Young. Not Young.

If you are young, reduce the risk of regret. Get out. Do things. Different things. Drop your phone, skip your social media, stop your gaming. Take a chance on happiness now to minimize misery later.

If you are not young, like me, reduce the impact of remorse. Our happiness now depends on admitting, even just to ourselves, our sorrow for what we did. (Even while we remain sorrier for what we did not do.) In the end, our peace of mind is found in the wisdom to know how we would now act differently.

Welcome to my side of the nonsense divide.