When you do an image search for the word “regret” this cool statue comes up. I was curious about it, so I dug in a bit. Turns out I have seen it in real life, but since I didn’t post it to Instagram, it’s like it didn’t really happen.
The sculpture is By Henri Vidal, and this work from 1896 can be found outside the Louvre museum in Paris, France in the Tuilieres Garden. While it should be entitled “Face Palm,” the actual name is “Caïn venant de tuer son frère Abel” which means “Cain, after having murdered his brother Abel.”
Ironic that this visual representation of Cain grieving has no basis in the scriptures. When I read Genesis 4, I don’t see any regret on the part of Cain. I see a little attitude, and some complaining about the consequences, but nothing resembling regret, remorse or repentance.
Last week I wrote about regret, and how it is only useful if it leads to repentance. (Here is the link if you need to catch up first – we can wait.) Since then, I have given some more thought to the subtleties of regret and found some insight from Church leaders.
First I want to posit a few ideas, then I’ll leave the heavy hitting to the heavy hitters.
• First, I stand by the key phrase of last week’s post: “Wallowing in regret is a good indicator that we are not where we need to be. Either we are fixating on things that don’t matter, or we need to fix things that do matter.”
• The words regret and remorse are sometimes interchangeable, as are their usage, but it seems worthwhile to draw some distinctions. Regret is more broad-based. For example, I can regret staying up until 2:00am watching old movies on Netflix, but I don’t actually have any remorse for it. Remorse carries more weight. It implies a sense of contrition, whereas regret is more an awareness that we could have done (or not done) things differently.
• Forgive and forget is what God does. It would be unwise for us to do the same all the time. There are several reasons for this: One is that we need to remember what we have done wrong and how we got there to avoid doing it again. We also need to remember wrongs done to us so that we do not endanger ourselves by putting ourselves in the same situation. Forgive? Yes. Forget? Not so fast.
In a Facebook conversation about last week’s post, my friend Monique mentioned this, “I don’t have regrets that want to be heard. I have regrets that remind me why I never want to make those choices again.” My response was simply, “I don’t think we call that “regret.” I think we call it “wisdom.”
• Remorse by itself doesn’t accomplish anything other than serve as a deterrent from doing it again – it is not repentance – but it can lead there. Same with regret.
“I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.” (D&C 64:10) We read this scripture frequently, but have we ever stopped to consider that you and I are part of “all men.”
• The way we truly know that we have been forgiven for our sins is that we will feel the Holy Ghost. He will let us know that we are back in God’s good graces.
• Satan wants us to dwell on past sins and mistakes as a way of manipulating us and pulling us out of a place of faith and happiness.
• And finally, what I think the most significant point about forgiveness and regret is this: If we still feel regret or remorse for something we have fully repented of, either we do not understand Christ’s atonement, or we do not accept it.
Here is a series of quotes to help this make more sense. It is a pretty deep dive. Ready? Go!
“Often the most difficult part of repentance is to forgive yourself. Discouragement is part of that test. Do not give up. That brilliant morning will come.” Elder Boyd K Packer (link)
“Now if you are one who cannot forgive yourself for serious past transgressions—even when a judge in Israel has assured that you have properly repented—if you feel compelled to continually condemn yourself and suffer by frequently recalling the details of past errors, I plead with all of my soul that you ponder this statement of the Savior:
“He who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.
“By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins— … he will confess them and forsake them.”
To continue to suffer when there has been proper repentance is not prompted by the Savior but the master of deceit, whose goal is to bind and enslave you. Satan will press you to continue to relive the details of past mistakes, knowing that such thoughts make forgiveness seem unattainable. In this way Satan attempts to tie strings to the mind and body so that he can manipulate you like a puppet.
I testify that when a bishop or stake president has confirmed that your repentance is sufficient, know that your obedience has allowed the Atonement of Jesus Christ to satisfy the demands of justice for the laws you have broken. Therefore you are now free. Please believe it. To continually suffer the distressing effects of sin after adequate repentance, while not intended, is to deny the efficacy of the Savior’s Atonement in your behalf.
When memory of prior mistakes encroached upon Ammon’s mind, he turned his thoughts to Jesus Christ and the miracle of forgiveness. Then his suffering was replaced with joy, gratitude, and thanksgiving for the Savior’s love and forgiveness. Please, go and do likewise. Do it now so that you can enjoy peace of conscience and peace of mind with all their attendant blessings.” Elder Richard G Scott (link)
“Satan will try to make us believe that our sins are not forgiven because we can remember them. Satan is a liar; he tries to blur our vision and lead us away from the path of repentance and forgiveness. God did not promise that we would not remember our sins. Remembering will help us avoid making the same mistakes again. But if we stay true and faithful, the memory of our sins will be softened over time. This will be part of the needed healing and sanctification process.” Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf (link)
“Some have offended God and their own consciences and are earnestly repentant but they find the way back blocked by their unwillingness to forgive themselves or to believe that God will forgive them.” Elder Marion D. Hanks (link)
“Almighty God has promised to forgive, forget, and never mention the sins of which we have truly repented. But he has given us the gift of remorse to help us remember them constructively, thankfully, and humbly: “Do not endeavor to excuse yourself in the least point because of your sins, by denying the justice of God; but do you let the justice of God, and his mercy, and his long-suffering have full sway in your heart; and let it bring you down to the dust in humility” (Alma 42:30). Marion D Hanks (link)
“Some have asked, “But if I am forgiven, why do I still feel guilt?” Perhaps in God’s mercy the memory of that guilt is a warning, a spiritual “stop sign” of sorts that, at least for a time, cries out when additional temptations confront us: “Don’t go down that road. You know the pain it can bring.” In this sense, it serves as a protection, not a punishment.” Elder Tad R. Callister (link)
“Once we have truly repented, Christ will take away the burden of guilt for our sins. We can know for ourselves that we have been forgiven and made clean. The Holy Ghost will verify this to us; He is the Sanctifier. No other testimony of forgiveness can be greater.” Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf (link)
“One reason it is so essential to understand the Savior’s Atonement and its infinite implications is that with increased understanding comes an increased desire to forgive ourselves and others.
Even though we may believe in Christ’s cleansing powers, the question often arises: “How do I know if I have been forgiven of my sins?” If we feel the Spirit, then that is our witness that we have been forgiven, or that the cleansing process is taking place. President Henry B. Eyring taught, “If you have felt the influence of the Holy Ghost … , you may take it as evidence that the Atonement is working in your life.” Elder Tad R Callister (link)
There you go. Some beautiful concepts to ponder this Sabbath day. Phew!