One area I have spent time mulling over in my own life is learning to live without regret. I believe we all live with “what should have beens” and “what I wish I had done.” These sometimes haunt us. As John Greenleaf Whittier wrote: “For all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these, ‘it might have been.” A dramatic example of a father’s regret at the death of his son Absalom is David’s, “Oh, my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son!”
Remember Joseph when Potiphar’s wife sought to seduce him? He fled from her grasp (Genesis 39:8-10). We know what wrong is—don’t hang around it. Run from it to avoid regret. When I was in third grade, there was boy who was always aggravating me. I could not resist getting into fights with him. If I had just run from him, I could have saved myself black eyes and bruises on my face, as well as my mother’s ire.
A second way to avoid regrets is to measure the day—use our time well. As the Psalmist wrote in Psalm 90:10, “Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures.…” Maybe David had in mind that the way he used his time was not always wise. He should have spent more time with Absalom. He should not have been walking on the rooftop observing Bathsheba bathing. Make the best use of your time each day and you will have fewer regrets. As David wrote in Psalm 118:24, “This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.”
Here are a couple of thoughts on measuring the day. Take advice from people of faith. The Spirit can speak through them. Another is to think, “If I have a choice, which decision would I be most likely to regret?” That will help with decisions and put structure in your day.
Third, give your best effort to each responsibility. David seemed always to be out fighting battles instead of spending time with and training Absalom. When a student questioned why they made such a low grade on a speech, I’d often ask, “How much time did you spend on preparation?” Usually, they had waited until the night before the speech was due to start and had spent very little time on the assignment. Give your best no matter what the task is. As Paul wrote in Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Make use of every opportunity to do good. As my fourth grade Bible class teacher taught us, “Good, better, best. Never let it rest, until your good is better, then your better’s best.”