During summer training camp, the coaches on one football team wore T-shirts intended to urge their players to exert maximum effort. The shirts bore the motto, “Each day you must choose: The pain of discipline or the pain of regret.” Discipline is tough—and something we may try to avoid. But in sports and in life, short-term pain is often the only path to long-term gain. In the heat of battle it is too late to prepare. Either you are ready for the challenges of life or you will be haunted by the “what ifs,” “if onlys,” and “I should’ves” that accompany the failure to be prepared. That’s the pain of regret.
One source defines regret as “an intelligent and emotional dislike for personal past acts and behaviors.” It’s painful to look back at our choices through the lens of regret and feel the weight of our failures. This was the case for the psalmist. After a personal episode of sin and failure, he wrote, “Many sorrows shall be to the wicked; but he who trusts in the Lord, mercy shall surround him” (Ps 32:10). In the clarity of hindsight, he saw the wisdom of a life that strives to honor the Lord—a life that does not need to be marked by regret.