Regret is the recognition that something that was done or said (or not done or said) may not have been an enlightened act i.e. one that was performed from love rather than fear. That is all regret is – a recognition or a re-cognizing of some action, inaction or word. We see the action differently, in a different light, so to speak, or perhaps more accurately, we see it ‘in light’ where previously there was ‘darkness’ or ignorance or fear. In other words, regret is a cognitive space of love, unconditioned and unconditional.
Such recognition might inspire us to take some form of action or make some kind of resolution. For instance, we may seek to apologize or to resolve not to repeat a certain behavior, or conversely, to do or say something, should a similar situation arise, that we hadn’t done or said before.
Guilt, on the other hand, is the persistent belief together with its associated feelings that some action (or inaction) or word has made us ‘less’ than we truly are. That in some way, we have been or become ‘bad’, ‘wrong’, ‘unloving’ and ‘unlovable’.
As you can see, guilt is not a state that we feel good in. On the contrary, it troubles and hurts us, often keeping us in a cycle of defensive thought and behavior. The more guilty we feel, the more we are likely to seek justifications for our words or actions. At some point, we may find that such justifications no longer hold weight. That is when we are most vulnerable to despair and depression.
Based on these notions of regret and guilt, I am sure you’ll see that whilst regret can be a very useful thing, guilt isn’t. Indeed, regret itself is a moment of enlightenment. To recognize that something wasn’t the most enlightened thing to have been said or done is itself enlightening.
Some people may consider my use of the word ‘enlightened’ a travesty as the word is traditionally used in the context of a dramatic, quantum-like altered state of consciousness, thus affording it a status not generally attainable by ‘ordinary’ beings. Yet the word ‘enlighten’ simply means to bring into light. And what is ‘light’ if not that which is true, the clear view, the loving view, free from fear and ignorance?
And in case you are wondering, I use the word ‘ignorance’ in a Buddhist sense to mean ‘being unaware of the true nature of things, including ourselves’.
What are your thoughts about guilt and regret? Do share :-).
Love Always, Lucy
How shall I serve you, my Love?