This article on regret by Jim Baker can be found in the March 18th, 2013 Christian Science Sentinel. You can purchase the weekly issues of the Sentinel at any Christian Science Reading Room, or order a subscription at www.JSH-Online. Enjoy!
Are we destined to live with anguished thoughts of regret, guilt, or grief? Do we struggle with memories of disappointments, missed opportunities, or unsatisfied longings?
Human history appears to consist of good parts we remember with pleasure and parts we would rather forget because they are uncomfortable or painful—and, like old specters may even sneak back into our thoughts to haunt our sense of peace and harmony.
But must we believe we are doomed to live with troubling thoughts that stain our sense of self-worth, keep us trapped in the past, and prevent us from making progress on our spiritual journey? That would certainly not be a sentence imposed by God on His beloved daughters and sons.
That was how I reasoned a few years ago when I found myself wrestling with some family and other interpersonal relationships. The more I allowed myself to dwell on the disturbing memories tumbling through my mind, the more persistent and distressful they became until I recalled a statement by Mary Baker Eddy that “… suffering is self-inflicted, and good is the master of evil” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 209).
In addressing my ghosts of self-recrimination for past mistakes, I came to realize that since the wounds of regret, guilt, grief, and so on, were self-inflicted, I had the God-given right to see them self-corrected, self-healed, and self-eliminated. I also found a fresh and comforting perspective on mortal history and the basis for its correction in another of Mrs. Eddy’s books, Retrospection and Introspection. There she writes: “It is well to know, dear reader, that our material, mortal history is but the record of dreams, not of man’s real existence, and the dream has no place in the Science of being” ( p. 21).
So, in addressing old memories we are often dealing with dreams of our own making. And, since the penalty of harboring and rehashing those dreams is “self-inflicted,” we have the right to revise and eliminate them, and awake from the concept of a flawed mortal history.
We are often dealing with dreams of our own making.
As I prayed, I began by establishing a strong mental defense to confront the baseless suggestions I was dealing with. I recognized that those disturbing illusions had no power to trespass on my present sense of harmony. They were like outgrown garments saved from my childhood that no longer fit and deserved no space in my mental closet.
I found “A Rule for Motives and Acts” in the Manual of The Mother Church instructive in directing me to address the concept of “mere personal attachment” ( p. 40). As I refused to stay attached to memories of my outdated personal history, they became increasingly less intrusive. And soon they faded from thought, leaving no wounds to be healed and no scars.
That experience confirmed that when we awake from a dream, the dream ends, no matter how long we may have been dreaming, or how vivid the dream appeared to be. That dream never becomes part of our present, eternal spiritual identity.
We always have the opportunity to learn the lessons of past experiences to help us in our spiritual growth. Part of the process is learning to love and forgive ourselves enough to drop outgrown experiences from our present thinking lest they impede our progress with needless baggage.
Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw once observed that only his tailor took his measurements anew every time he saw him. We have the opportunity to keep measuring ourselves anew, too, based on our present understanding of our spiritual identity.
When we view everyone around us the way we know God sees them, as sinless, spiritual, and perfect, we mentally liberate them, as well as ourselves, from the limitations of discordant memories. We are all free to rejoice in God’s uninterrupted harmony—with no more regrets!