Wednesday, July 9, 2014

How to Let Go of Regret

I see you, mama. The one with Regret written all over your face and on your sagging shoulders and in your sad eyes. The one whose hopes and dreams consist of words you wish you had said, deeds you wish you had done, or those you wish you could undo.

“If only” has become your mantra.

I see you and I know you because I am you.

Seems, sometimes, like Regret is a mother’s best friend.

We walk with it, chew on it, and let it weigh us down. None of us are immune.

I’ve certainly had my share of regrets over the years—things I wish I had done; things I wish I had said. More often, though, things I wish I had not said. The words, they do poison.

In the past few weeks I have spoken to two friends—both amazing mothers—who are filled with regret over children who are not currently living in the way these parents have raised them. One child has rejected the faith with which they were raised; the other is on the brink of making some important decisions about how to live.

In both conversations, I noticed that both of my friends expressed serious regret about their parenting.

Maybe you’ve felt this, too.

Here’s the thing, mamas: we are not made to regret. And I think our regrets come from our forgetfulness about three important things.

1. We forget that we are ultimately not in control.

In other words, we give ourselves way too much blame (or credit!) for the way our kids turn out. As much as we’d like to make the way easy for our kids, we have to remember that some kids very simply will not learn from our mistakes. They may not even learn from their own. We can give our children the tools (whether that be an education, a faith heritage, a stable family—whatever it is) that can make paving the way a bit easier, but it’s up to them to use them.

Don’t blame yourself if your child rejects the tools you have given him or her. Just be faithful every day.

2. We forget that we are forgiven, just as much as our children are.

Forgiveness is a powerful arsenal in our parenting strategy, and we must remember to also practice it on ourselves.

I recently read the most beautiful definition of grace: “Grace says, ‘There you are, I’ve been waiting for you and you’re welcome here. All of you. You are beloved.’”

Mama, you are beloved—all of you—whether or not you’ve messed up. Or your kid has. Or your husband has. It doesn’t matter. Grace is here, waiting for you.

Mama, forgive yourself because God already has. Don’t let the regret that you’re feeling limit you from the power of forgiveness and grace in your life, which will move you ahead to do the next right thing.

3. We forget that the story isn’t finished yet.

I’ve known parents of some seriously messed up kids. Some have let regrets stop them from doing what they should be doing—whether that is acting with tough love or gently loving them back home. But some parents I’ve known have simply said, “My son’s (or daughter’s) story is not yet finished. God has not given up on this child, and neither will I.” They have prayed continuously for their child. They have opened the door to their home. They have shown, in very practical terms, what the love of Jesus means.

Mama, your story is not yet finished—thank goodness for that, right?!—and neither is your child’s. Our stories continue to grow and to change and to mold us into the people we are today, and that’s true for our kids as well. If you have regrets, remember that your child’s story is still being written and that the way he or she is living today is not the end of the story.

Even more important, remember that God has not walked away from your child, He still loves them, and He will never give up fighting for them.

So mama? For the sake of your family (and your sanity) will you give up your regrets? Don’t dwell on those things that are over and done. Realize that, ultimately, you are not in control. Move ahead with grace and forgiveness. 

And thank God that the story is not finished yet.


  1. And ... our (the parents) story isn't finished yet, either. Cool.


  2. That is awesome Shelly! And so very true. I think all moms think that if they do everything "Right" their kids lives will be perfect. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. I have taught my children all I know. I have tried to live a Godly life in front of them. The rest of up to them. I pray for them daily, just like you pray for your girls. God loves them even more than we do! Blessings my friend!

  3. A. MEN. You're right on the money with this one, friend.

    I'm so blessed that one of my best friends is Libby Acuff, Jon Acuff's mom. Libby has four adult children, and she's such a good example for me. She and Mark had to struggle through some hard times when it looked as if their kids had forsaken the kind of faith and life they'd always taught. But now their kids are following hard after the Lord, living in a way that brings delight to their parents' hearts.

    It's a journey, and God loves our kids even more than we do!

  4. Thanks, Shelly, good words and reminders and well said! colette

  5. this reminds me of a St Augustin Quote i just saw yesterday for the first time "God always pours his grace into empty hands..." which interpreted through this incredible post means I would have to let go of my regrets into to have handfuls of fresh grace...
    thanks for your encouragement.

    Shelly, I'd like to add this to your blog.
    Well it didn't work right. Im not tech savvy. Look at Amy Grant's song 'Don't Try so Hard' with James Taylor on You Tube :-)