What on earth were you thinking?
I really don’t know. It was a mistake. I wasn’t thinking clearly. I’m sorry.
You’re sorry? You’re sorry? How did you expect to get away with this?
I really don’t know. This wasn’t something I planned. It just happened. I swear, it was not premeditated. I’ve never done anything like this before. This is the first time, and I promise it will be the last. I know I’m in deep trouble, but I’m really sorry.
Did you think about the consequences of your actions before you went ahead to make a fool of yourself?
I’m really sorry. I swear, I wasn’t thinking straight. Please find it in your heart to forgive me. This was clearly the devil’s error.
A little bird once said to me: “regret is the cancer of the soul; it eats away at a person’s entire being until what remains is a skeletal shadow of what used to be”. We’ve all been there; we’ve all made very stupid mistakes for which we could never and probably should never be forgiven. We acted on the impulses of certain moments and allowed our better judgements to take a break while we plunged on into the depths of stupidity. What’s worst is not that we displayed utter foolishness by our silly actions, but the fact that within mere seconds of committing our errors, we begin on the long winding road down to regret. What was intended to be pleasurable becomes the least interesting subject in the universe. So why on earth do we continually act foolishly?
This is the story of all of us. It is the story of the little boy who sneaks into his father’s bedroom at 8:00pm while his old man enjoys a quiet dinner after a long hard day at work. In all his infantile wisdom, this little chap believes very strongly that his father wouldn’t notice his sudden prolonged absence from the living room. He believes that if he’s able to make his way stealthily across the corridor and past his father’s rack of suits, and sneak a few fingers into the breast pocket of the warmest jacket in the wardrobe, he can lay hold on a few crisp notes to earn bragging rights at school the following day. He also assumes that his father wouldn’t be sneaking up behind him anytime soon as his dinner has just commenced. And so that huge gulp in the throat and leap of the heart that accompanies the sight of his father’s blank face and raised eyebrows clearly upsets the original plan. This wasn’t supposed to happen. He claims that he was only trying to get a pen for his homework, but that storyline is quickly dropped because there are a few notes in hand already. He is very sorry, and he would have a very disappointed father to deal with over the next couple of days. He asks himself: “What on earth was I thinking?”
This is the story of all of us. It is the story of the teenage girl who accompanies her more outgoing friend to a birthday party. That’s all it was intended to be.
Another friend from another school had invited Miss Outgoing to hang out with a couple of ‘cool guys’ who just got into college, and she didn’t want to go alone. Who wants to walk by themselves when their blooming pomegranates eagerly gasp for air behind silky tank tops, their ultra-mini skirts clearly reveal all the glory of the Garden of Eden, and their neon-green stilettoes put Sofia Vergara to shame? Definitely a reliable friend will be as desperately needed as a few packets of condoms (just in case). A few glasses of vodka and a few dropped pants later, she’s sitting in a pool of tears considering whether to frame it as a rape case or to visit the abortion clinic. The choices are stark: it could be a new life created, an embryo terminated or two lives lost, but none of them come without the burden of the accompanying shame. She asks herself: “What on earth was I thinking?”
This is the story of all of us. It is the story of the young manager who performs a few tricks with his hands on a younger intern.
He had only walked over to her desk to commend her for a job well done on the last project, but he lingered a little longer to proof-read her monthly report, slowly taking a seat beside her and reaching across her frontal regions to edit a typographical error. A slight brush of skin on skin, a weak sideways glance, a few short breaths, an instant bulge down below, a few more intrusions and a slap on the cheek follow in quick succession. She wasn’t up for any of that crap. She’s engaged, and even if she weren’t, this was clearly inappropriate and he should know that. What a pervert! He’s sorry. He begins to apologize and explain that this wasn’t intended, but she’s way beyond convincing. How could she ever have looked up to him as a role model? She’s rethinking all the words of affirmation he ever spoke and concludes that they were all part of his grand strategy to infiltrate her privacy. He knows that she’ll never respect him anymore and everything he does will be filtered through those few seconds of indiscretion. He’s utterly embarrassed and considers resigning, moving to another city or taking an unscheduled extended leave because he knows that he’ll be unable to come to work the following day. He asks himself: “What on earth was I thinking?”
Regret is an integral part of our lives. As fallible creatures, we consistently go against our better judgement and act as total idiots. We commit the worst blunders on earth: steal from our parents, get drunk cheaply and crash into our neighbours’ cars, run over the lovely dog from down the street in a fit of annoyance, alter record books, cheat in examinations, engage in extramarital affairs with someone from work, accept kickbacks from a bidding contractor, and even order junior employees to be fired for fear that they could expose our deadliest deeds. We do these in the silent hope that nothing will backfire. But more often than we expect, things do backfire. The situation turns around drastically and we’re slapped in the face with the only option of admitting our insolence, making uncomfortable apologies and facing the consequences of our foolish actions. We indeed are sorry, and even if we receive pardon, we will live with the grief of knowing that we could have chosen differently but we didn’t. But if, if only we devoted a tenth of the time we spend regretting our actions to carefully considering them beforehand, what beautiful lives we would all live.
Think on these things…