“The Lord turned and looked at Peter; and Peter remembered the word of the Lord, ‘Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.’ He went outside and began to weep bitterly.” (Luke 22:60-62)
We may be familiar with Peter’s denial of Jesus following his arrest – a denial which took place only hours after Peter had proclaimed that he was ready to go with Jesus to prison or death. Peter’s failings included pride in his proclamation, fear of being associated with Jesus after his arrest and deceit in his response. It is ironic that Jesus chose a symbol of pride, a crowing rooster, to humble Peter and make him aware of the extent of his failure.
No doubt we have all regretted something we have done or said. It may be an emotional response, lashing out in anger to a word or action of a loved one or friend. It may involve giving into a temptation or weakness. It may be a careless word offered without much thought. It may be an action lacking courage and taken out of fear.
The positive thing about regret is that it is the first step toward repentance. In weeping bitterly, Peter reveals a repentant heart, which leads to God’s forgiveness. Scripture tells us that Jesus did appear to Peter after his resurrection. (Luke 24:34) I am sure Peter sought and received Jesus’ forgiveness.
In fact, seeking forgiveness is one of the best antidotes for regret while also helping overcome the hurt and anger of the people affected by our wrongdoing.
Over the course of my life, I have experienced both actions and words that I deeply regret. In one such incident I didn’t even realize my failure until years later. It involved an invitation from my father’s boss to attend a dinner in Iowa to honor my father’s retirement from his company after 40 years of service. I had just been transferred to New York to take on a new position and had a conflict with the date of the retirement party. At the time I thought the conflict was a meeting critical to my new job, but today I can’t even remember what it was about.
To use today’s language, I was “clueless” about the Fourth Commandment’s call to honor your father and your mother, to say nothing of the excessive self-focus that dominated my life at the time. My father died before I realized my failure. Like Peter, I regret and weep bitterly over my actions.
While a word once spoken or an action taken cannot generally be taken back, we can take solace in the words of Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, “And yet, knowing all, the Son of God made Peter, who knew sin, the Rock upon which he built his church that sinners and the weak may never despair.”
Do you have any regrets about actions taken or words spoken now or in the past?