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STEP TEN: LIVING FREE OF REGRET
cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Acceptance of what you cannot change is a key to contentment. Acceptance frees you from resentments and allows you to face the difficulties of life with equanimity and seasoned faith. You will be less judgmental and more tolerant of people and things you do not understand or with which you disagree. You will be less easily offended and quicker to forgive, less frequently aroused to anger, and more appreciative of this extraordinary world in which we live. Acceptance is an activity as well as a state of being. It requires hard work to acquire and to apply. But the payoff is high. Accepting what you cannot change is a powerful way to shape your experiences in the world and, when necessary, to triumph over them.
Reject Old Regrets
Never entertain an old regret. Not for a minute, not for a second. Do not indulge it. Do not return to its seductive pleasures or destructive effects for any reason once you have let it go through the Ten Steps. Refuse to rekindle its resentments, to suffer old bouts of self-pity, or to engage in old episodes of blaming. Use thought analysis and the other spiritual and psychological tools to keep you out of its pain and anger.
Staying regret-free does not mean that you can’t remember and apply the lessons and gifts of your regrets, however. You can. But to remember a regret, apply its lessons, or use its gifts is not the same as falling back into the regret, reliving the past it represents, blaming yourself, or indulging “if only” fantasies of what might have been.
Just as you do not entertain old regrets that pop into your mind, do not entertain old regrets that others try to rekindle in you. In letting go ofyour regrets, you have completed a remarkable journey. Your regrets are now in the past where they belong, because you have let them go. But others may not have let them go, may not be willing to let them go, or may not want you to let them go. For many reasons, people may try to convince you to take back your old regrets. They may do so because they enjoy inflicting pain, because they want to remind you that they were “right,” because they enjoy arguments, because they want to punish you, because they want a fellow victim, because they resent your progress, because they want to
continue as martyrs, because it keeps them from having to look at their own regrets, because, because, because . . . The reason doesn’t matter.
When someone tries to remind you of your regrets, whether as victim, perpetrator, observer, or interested party, your answer to them is always a version of the same theme: “I’ve let go of that regret.” You may want to expand on that idea with something like, “If you are genuinely interested in letting go of your regrets, I’ll be happy to share my experience with you so that you can let go of yours. But I won’t discuss the old regret again.” Those who wish you well will respect your request and act accordingly. They will drop the regret. Those who are genuinely seeking your help will ask you how you let go of the regret. If they do, that is an opportunity to share how you did it and, perhaps, to help them let go of theirs.
Some people, however, do not want you to let go of your regrets because they have a substantial investment in them. If they find that you have let them go, they will try to persuade you to resurrect them. Resist. Regardless of their words, decline the bait. Refuse to go back to the regret, politely if you can, impolitely if you must. Regardless of how insistent or aggressive you have to be, it is imperative that you keep yourself regret-free and solidly in the present. You have a right to protect yourself and your happiness from those who wish you ill or simply act out of ignorance. You must not allow yourself to be talked back into the shame and guilt you have left behind.
To those who stubbornly return to your regrets and try to involve you in them, respond with something like, “I’m sorry that old regret is still a problem for you. I’ve let it go.” Or give them a copy of No Regrets inscribed, “You can let the regret go, too.” You need not allow someone to abuse you emotionally just as you would not allow someone to abuse you physically. With such people, you have to be aggressive in protecting yourself, which is not only your right, but your responsibility.
Let Go of New Regrets
New regrets will inevitably arise. Life is like that. You will make mistakes, other people will make mistakes, circumstances will not be to your liking, things will happen. Out of these events, you may develop new regrets. Some of these regrets will be warranted. You should regret your actions
STEP TEN: LIVING FREE OF REGRET
when you do something wrong. You can’t help but regret other people’s actions when they hurt you. But you do not have to harbor the regrets. You can let them go. You have learned how to let go of your regrets using the Ten Steps. You can protect yourself from holding onto new regrets by applying the Ten Steps before those new regrets fester. Protecting yourself in this way is your daily responsibility.