The corrosive power of regret

What does it take to find self-compassion and embrace self-forgiveness?

As the founder of the Forgiveness Project I’ve spent nearly 20 years talking to people about what forgiveness means—in terms of both its indisputable transformative power but also about the obstacles and resistance that people face when attempting to forgive. In these conversations I’ve discovered that one thing seems to be hardest of all: forgiving ourselves.

I’ve long been interested in the corrosive power of regret. It strikes me that regret, while sometimes necessary in order to achieve accountability, can blight individual lives.

This bubbled up a few months ago for me when I was telling a friend about something I’d done as a mother which I deeply regretted. I had gone into the bathroom to hand my ten-year-old daughter a towel, and as she stood up to get out of the bath I heard myself saying, “Darling, I think you need to lose weight.” She gave me a horrified look, grabbed the towel, and ran out of the bathroom to her bedroom, where she locked the door and proceeded to howl in despair. I knew at that moment that I had said something I would never be able to take back and which had very possibly caused damage beyond repair. My daughter felt humiliated. Her first experience of body shaming came from her own mother.