Sandro Botticelli: Lamentation Over the Dead Christ (detail), 1490-1492.
I was speaking to my Mother today about living with the sorrow of regrets. I should say here that I really hate Hollywood’s mantra of “NO REGRETS!” He who regrets nothing is he who lives for no one but himself. How can you not regret the pain you’ve caused in the course of your life? And it seems far too simple to say only, “Forgive and forget.” Isn’t that next door to No Regrets? I’ve always felt like somehow I had to learn to hold the sorrow of my regrets. To carry them. But the mystery of how they might be transformed into something beautiful was always veiled.
And then this evening, in my reading, I came across this passage in Brother Michael Casey’s book, Seventy-Four Tools for Good Living:
There is another point that can be made about the whole-heartedness of love. The rabbis interpreted this whole-heartedness to which the verse of Deuteronomy refers as meaning that we are to bless God with both good and evil impulses (yetserim). Even the shadows in our personal history are called upon to bless the Lord. We may not exclude our sins, because in some way, these unfortunate choices belong to the integrity of who we are. They are not to be banished from consciousness. As we grow in self-knowledge we become more aware of aspects of our being that displease us. Some of these we can eliminate by industrious self-discipline. Some of them drop away as the years pass. Others remain and will remain permanently as a goad to our complacency. We never graduate from a state of being utterly dependent on God’s mercy and forgiveness. In fact, the more we advance along the spiritual path, the more aware we become of our impediments, of the many ways in which we are resistant to God’s love, and of the burdens we carry as a result of choices made in the past. We are not to ignore these liabilities; they also must join in our hymn of praise to the God of grace. The shadow is part of our reality, and so in a spirit of faith, we thank God also for the darkness in our life, for the mistakes we have made, for the abuse we have inflicted on ourselves. Our very unworthiness of love makes the God who loves us ever more lovable. It is only to the extent that we see God neutralizing these malign aspects of our being that we begin to grasp the height and depth, the length and breadth of God’s all-embracing love.
My sorrows and regrets are not just a cross. They are part of the heart with which I love and bless my Lord. They become the gift to her who is forgiven much – and to her who therefore loves much.
Bénedic, ánima mea, Dómino: et ómnia, quae intra me sunt, nómini sancto ejus. (Ps. cii. 1)