People sometimes say that they have no regrets. I confess I am at a loss to understand the statement.
All of us go through life learning as we go along, as if we were taking piano lessons, but our practices too are in public. As a result, we hit lots of wrong notes and make many, many mistakes. We learn from them, it is true. Too often, since people learn from their mistakes, they think there is no reason to regret them.
The problem is that others pay for our mistakes as well. In an interconnected world, when I do something wrong, it may hurt me, but another also pays a price. When I am callous, or thoughtless, or selfish, or foolish, there are consequences for the life of those who are close. How can I not regret the hurt I inflicted, no matter how much I may have learned?
Without regret, there is no repentance. Teshuvah is predicated on the idea that we understand what we have done wrong, are sorry for it, would change it if we could, but at least can try to make amends. Don’t dwell on regrets, but also don’t be afraid of them; they help make us more human.
Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter: @RabbiWolpe.