A penny for your thoughts? This phrase goes back to the year 1522 when the value of a penny 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. There are times however, especially during the holiday season when our memories are weighed down by thoughts concerning regret and forgiveness. 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 is difficult to put into practice. It is hard to forgive others who have offended us, but it can be even more difficult to forgive ourselves. It is 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 whereby we unconsciously reject any possibility or responsibility for having any other way to think or feel about a person or situation. So, ask yourself, do I resent myself for what I did or didn’t do and believe that anything bad that happens to me is deserving of cosmic retaliation? Do I resent another for what they did to me and wish revenge, or imagine scenarios that wound them as they wounded me? If the answer to either is yes, then you have regret; and regret can either paralyze you or move you to action. As with almost everything, you have an option. Do you have to forgive? No. You can choose not to. However, like the Grinch, this decision will debilitate you, weigh you down, and keep you locked into thoughts and feelings of negativity. It is after all, 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 thing. 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
Regret leads us to “what if” questions. What if I had done something different? What if I had stayed? It yields recurring, intrusive, heart-wrenching, energy-zapping brain activity that can make us like Scrooge and rob us of joy. So let’s consider doing something different. What if we choose to let go of regret and forgive? Then what? Save your penny for part 2 on my thoughts for how to make an investment in that direction.
Until next week!
Dr. Marie Yvette Hernández-Seltz is the director of Candescent Counseling, Consulting & Coaching. She holds a PhD in Clinical Psychology and an MS 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.