On Regrets

A mentor when I was younger insisted Monday was a good day for pastors since the pressure of the upcoming Sunday hadn’t yet settled in. He was in the minority because many pastors joke about Mondays being “resignation day.” They feel badly about the day before and drag in on Monday with discouragement. Another pastor I knew did reverse psychology. He had staff meetings at 8 a.m. on Monday morning so his compatriots wouldn’t drag in!

I drug in a few Mondays ago distraught over my sermon the day before. It didn’t flow like I’d planned, so I took time to re-do it before filing notes away. Of course, I won’t get to reuse it in my present ministry station, since some people write these things in their Bibles, but I couldn’t bear to save it without reorganization.

The Greek philosopher Aristotle taught principles of rhetoric--the “Aristotelian proofs”--and we still use these to teach public speaking. One of his three key principles was “logos.” He meant that a speaker’s research, organization and word choice in large measure made one effective or not. A presentation needs to be easy to “track,” as millennials say.

I thought about recalling our congregation for a sermon re-do. However, another Greek, Heraclitus, famously said “no man steps into the same river twice.” Life moves on and we’ll never have the same moment again. By the way, this is one of the primary motivations for making good use of every opportunity since opportunities are temporary.

I began to think about how many times I wish I might stage a personal intervention and re-do something.

I’ve said things I shouldn’t have said. Most often when I’ve given someone a piece of my mind, I regretted it later.

I had an office assistant once who dared ask if I really wanted to mail a letter of reprimand to a neighboring pastor who had insulted our church. I did mail it, but I should’ve listened to her superior wisdom and refused to get in the mud with him.

And I’ve done things I shouldn’t have done. As TV’s Jesse Stone said, “You know, you live long enough, you have regrets. And the ones that nag at you the most are the ones where you knew you had a choice. The ones where you knew you could have stopped yourself. The ones where you looked into the mirror and everything good inside you said, 'Don't do this.'"

 None of us can completely undo the wrong we’ve done in the past. But it’s possible to grow in wisdom and in relationships. We can humbly repent before God, and we can make peace with those we hurt along the way.