August 3, 2020

Who are these people who say No Regrets!?

I was wondering, after blogging that WaPo article "I cut off all contact with my mother," where the author had "interviewed more than 50 people who have estranged themselves from family members" and had "yet to meet a single one who regrets it."

No Regrets is kind of slogan for some people, isn't it? Do you have no regrets? Here, listen to Edith Piaf sing "Non, je ne regrette rien" while you gather your thoughts:

And here's Elvis ("Regrets, I've had a few, but then again, too few to mention"):

I Googled "people who say no regrets":

1. "15 Things People Who Have No Regrets Don’t Do" (Lifehack): "Living with no regrets is freeing. It means not worrying and stressing over every little thing and, most importantly, it means that you don’t look back on something and wish it had gone another way...."

2. "Here’s Why You Should Stop Saying That You Have No Regrets" (HuffPo): "While some view regret as a hindrance to productivity, [author Brené Brown] actually sees it as something quite different. 'Regret, I think, is a function of empathy,' she says. Empathy is... the 'antidote to shame'.... 'When people say, "I have no regrets," I think, 'That seems dangerous to me. Do you not look back, ever, and say, "If I had this to do over again, I wish I would have done it another way."'"

3. "What do people mean when they say they 'have no regrets?' I'm genuinely puzzled every time somebody (usually a celebrity) says something like this. I would think having regrets is a natural part of human life... especially when it comes to hurting someone else. I do not know why someone would NOT have regrets about being a jerk or asshole at at least one point in his or her life...."(AskMetafilter).

4. From the answers to the AskMetafilter question above, somebody quotes Nietzsche: "What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: 'This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more' ... Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: 'You are a god and never have I heard anything more divine.'"

5. At Quora, somebody asks, "Why do so many people say 'I have no regrets'? How can that even be possible?" The highest-rated answer: "I think when people say this, they don't really mean they have no regrets. I’m pretty sure it’s an expression said to convey the idea that they're happy with their lives, and where they ended up. Their mistakes have led them to where they are, and they wouldn't change the past because that would change the present. If not that, the only other reason I can think of is rebellion. For example, when a teenager goes and gets a tattoo against his/her parents’ blessing, they might say, 'no regrets' to express their lack of bother to what authority tells them to do." [NOTE: A lot of people get tattoos that say "No Regrets" — sometimes misspelled.]

6. "The Idea of Living Life with 'No Regrets' Is Ridiculous and Unhealthy/Regret is a complicated but essential emotion. To have them? Human. To ignore them? Dumb" (Fatherly): "When you ask yourself, What is it that I’m regretting and why am I regretting it? The answer — if you’re open to the answer — may be surprising. Everyone has this narrative of who they are. But I think when you interrogate your own regret honestly, you may find out that you’re not really who you thought you were. Your values are different and your relationship to the world is different. I think that can be scary. But it’s very worthwhile."

7. "Having No Regrets Means Having Not Lived/If you haven’t experienced regret, you may lack experience" by Noam Shpancer Ph.D. (Psychology Today): "[L]ife—lived once and forward as it is—does not let us conduct experiments on imagined alternatives.... [O]nce we pick option A, option A is all we actually know. If it turns out worse than we imagined, we may feel regret, since we can easily imagine that taking option B would have led to better consequences. But in fact, we often can’t know that. It is also likely that option B would have led us to much worse consequences.... The work of therapy... often involves normalizing regret, using it for self-learning and growth, and accepting it as part of one’s functional inner architecture and, often, the mark of a life lived in earnest."


Lucid-Ideas said...

Burning bridges
For fun and prizes
Social distancing

Ken B said...

“Mrs Birkel, about how your son turned out ...”
Silence. Then a repressed sob. “I have no regrets.”

JPS said...

"the author had 'interviewed more than 50 people who have estranged themselves from family members' and had 'yet to meet a single one who regrets it.'"

Which is less meaningful than it seems at first glance. The writer, who thinks we shouldn't hesitate so much to cut people out of our lives, might find that if we were quicker to do it, we'd regret it more often.

Mid-Life Lawyer said...

"I only know one person who regretted breaking off communication with their mother. Where they are I don't know. They're outside my ken. But sometimes when I'm in a theater I can feel them." Pauline Kael

Sydney said...

People with no regrets are people who neither examine their lives nor their consciences. They are under-developed emotionally and don't even realize it.

mezzrow said...

The addition of 'tattoos' to your search list makes me smile and gives you extra karma points, Althouse. Generational solidarity runs deep.

Lucien said...

I have a hard time believing I would have met my wife but for most of the wrong turns I made earlier, so I can really only count regrets for things that happened afterward.
(How about “No regrets, Coyote”?)

Nonapod said...

Not to get all Bill Clinton on you, but it depends on what you mean by "regrets". I'd like to think that there's always room for improvement in any human interaction or activity. Generally speaking, with the benefit of foreknowledge I imagine that there's always things that could be done better, better paths chosen, better decisions to be made.

Obviously if we could go back in time, say 25 years or so, knowing what we all know now obviously we'd buy a bunch of stock in Apple and put a bunch of money on the Red Sox to win the World Series in 2004. Maybe we could stop the 911 attacks somehow (of course you'd have to convince people that you're not crazy). Of course those sorts of things aren't exactly the same thing as a regrets.

wild chicken said...

Definitely agree about tattoos. "Look at meeeee! I'm a badass and I'll NEVER CHANGE heheheh."

Anyway, I have all kinds of regrets. First was about letting my parent talk me into dropping Geometry sophomore year.

It was all downhill after that.

wendybar said...

If you cut off your family because of YOUR politics...Maybe YOU are the problem. Sorry, not sorry.

Birkel said...

Everybody has regrets, of course.
People who demand others wear masks?

This fuckers have no regrets.

wild chicken said...

I cut my father out for about 10 years.

Calling him up out of the blue was the hardest thing I ever did. No, I didn't need money. L

Michael K said...

In my Masters program at Dartmouth 25 years ago, there was a young woman who did her project in Decision Theory on "The Utility of Regret." Utility is a technical term in Decision Theory, meaning value in a positive or negative sense. She had been raised in foster care and told me she would rather have been raised in an orphanage.

wild chicken said...

The writer probably thinks her pals are more like family than family. I used to think that too. Then they all move on.

Moving 1200 miles away from actual family was smart but not wise. That I regret.

gspencer said...

Q. "Who are these people who say No Regrets?"

A. Foolish people who despite all their years and life experiences have learned nothing.

Tommy Duncan said...

I thought this would be a Tom Rush thread.

Joe Smith said...

Fun fact: Paul 'Having my Baby' Anka wrote the English lyrics to 'My Way.'

I often order rice piaf with prime rib.

If you have no regrets then you're either a saint or a sociopath.

BudBrown said...

Where's the OED regret tutorial?

LYNNDH said...

For all the mistakes I have made I would only do two things different. But if I had it might have made things worse. My HS Math teacher had a saying before tests - "You pays your money and take your choice".
So not regrets for the last 70 years.

RNB said...

"No regrets" seems to be related to the formulation "Sorry, not sorry." Which translates as "I'll say 'sorry' to be polite, but actually 'F**k you.' "

Dust Bunny Queen said...

"I think when people say this, they don't really mean they have no regrets. I’m pretty sure it’s an expression said to convey the idea that they're happy with their lives, and where they ended up. Their mistakes have led them to where they are,

This is a nicely profound statement.

I think this is an instance where you CAN have it both ways. Have regrets about things you have done or not done, mistakes you made in your past....yet at the same time are happy that those mistakes occurred. If not for those decisions you would not be who you are or where you are today.

This assumes you are happy with your life. If your life sucks at the moment...then you might have many regrets. Learn from them!

I often wonder about what my life might be like if I hadn't done something in my past that is pivotal. The path not taken. Where would I be today. All speculation and really not productive because you cannot change the past. Doesn't stop me from speculation though 😊

madAsHell said...

I have no regrets is for people without the temerity to say....."Man, I made a lot of stupid decisions along the way!! I'm lucky to be here".

Gabriel said...

I've always taken "no regrets" to be a statement of complete self-justification for all actions, past, present, future.

Always happy to see assholes self-identify.

Howard said...

Regrets are useful. It's the basis of imperical learning. Holding on to regrets is counterproductive. Time wounds all heels.

tcrosse said...

"I regret not the things I've done, but those I did not do."
Google tells me this has been attributed to just about everybody, from Mark Twain to Lucille Ball.
Fun fact: Sinatra hated My Way, but was required to sing it anyway. Business is business, after all.

Roger Sweeny said...

I know your leavin's too long overdue.
For far too long I've had nothin' new to show to you.
Goodbye dry eyes I watched your plane
Fade off west of the moon
And it felt so strange to walk away alone.

No regrets, no tears goodbye.
Don't want you back, we'd only cry, again.
Say goodbye, again

The hours that were yours, echo like empty rooms.
The thoughts we used to share, I now keep alone.
I woke last night and spoke to you, not thinking you were gone.
It felt so strange to lie awake, alone.

No regrets, no tears goodbye.
Don't want you back, we'd only cry, again.
Say goodbye, again.

Our friends have tried to turn my nights to day.
Strange faces in your place can't keep the ghosts away.
Just beyond the darkest hour, just behind the dawn
Still feels so strange to lead my life, alone.

I've no regrets, no tears goodbye.
Don't want you back, we'd only cry, again.
Say goodbye, again.

Tom Rush, No Regrets, the original music video

Chubfuddler said...

I'm with Tommy Duncan above, but when Tom Rush says "No Regrets" I don't think he really means it: Tom Rush - No Regrets

Anthony said...

Speaking of tattoos. . . . .

Anyway. This:
Gabriel said...
I've always taken "no regrets" to be a statement of complete self-justification for all actions, past, present, future.

I feel regret for things I did or didn't do out of, perhaps, selfishness, that hurt someone else, or hurt me in the long run. Not for "bad" decisions made in good faith with the information I had then. That way lies madness.

robother said...

"Who are these people...? Existentialist poseurs. (But I repeat myself.)

Meade said...

I regret all the hours I've wasted looking back and silently brooding: "if only I hadn't frittered away so much time repeatedly reading that dopey Frost poem Stopping By Two Equally Traveled Roads Not Taken And Sitting On A Deconstructed Wall In A Grove Of Birches On A Snowy Evening and worrying about whether or not I made the right career decision to be a hired man when I easily could have been a director in a bank."

Mr Wibble said...

Regrets, I have a few.

No regerts, however.

lgv said...

Prefer the "No Regerts" tattoo. It's worth a google.

mikee said...

No regerts. None. At all.

tim in vermont said...

We could do a study of people in cults and ask them if they regret joining. I bet that you would be hard pressed to find one who would say yes out loud.

Oso Negro said...

Ernest Tubb - "No regrets, no hard feelings, it's over"

Kai Akker said...

I had this conversation in college. A good friend of one of my roommates asked me, Do you ever regret anything?

After a little reflection on this out-of-the-blue inquiry, I answered yes, sometimes.

"Man, you must be a real drag to live with."

Then he turned on his heel and walked away. I did manage to say to his back, "Well, fortunately, you don't have to."

But the memory has stayed with me, obviously. I wondered then at the question and that implication that regrets are terrible and only for terrible people. I felt at the time that I had failed some inscrutable exam that I wasn't expecting.

I have tried ever since to have no regrets. To be a super-fun guy. But they sneak up on me. Nonapod triggered me. I do regret not having that 1,000 shares of AAPL to sell today at 440.

Bilwick said...

It's hard to imagine people pushing for socialism, and who then had to live under scoialism, could honestly say they had no regrets. But stupidity knows no bounds, and the Stockholm Syndrome is always with us.

Josephbleau said...

"Non, je ne regrette rien" is the song of the French Foreign Legion. After the French paratroops participated in the Coup d'État d'Alger. Piaf dedicated her recording to them because they regretted nothing they had done and marched out unbowed to accept their punishment.

Ann Althouse said...

The storms are raging on the rollin’ sea
And on the highway of regret
Put your hand in mine and come with me
I’ll see that you don’t get wet

Unknown said...

Phoebe Snow - “No Regrets”

Mark said...

After posting a lot of links to French singers lately, I gotta say -- not really a fan of Edith Piaf's voice.

Rt41Rebel said...

I have far more regrets about things I didn't do than anything I did.

n.n said...

Ethics is religion's relativistic cousin.

Mark said...

That Guy: [Starts contorting violently] My bones!

Fry: Oh, my God! His boneitis!

That Guy: I was so busy being an '80s guy, I forgot to cure it! My one regret is... that I have... boneitis.

Valentine Smith said...

People are generally full of shit but lie mostly to themselves. Piaf like most "free spirit(s)" was a fall-down pathetic drunk who never had a cogent thought in her life.

But of course she could sing and she loved Marcel Cerdan.

Only the sphinx has no regrets.

Churchy LaFemme: said...

Brian Wilson has regrets!

(Including, possibly, that this unreleased track was widely leaked).

lb said...

Best clip on no regrets ever :) Meet the Millers

Richard Dolan said...

Piaf sang a love song, no regrets about all the ups and downs that led her to where she ended up. Here's how it ends:

Non, je ne regrette rien
Car ma vie
Car mes joies
Ça commence avec toi

RigelDog said...

I accept that I am a flawed and sinful person living in a fallen world. This brings a certain freedom from obsessing over my regrets, but does not erase them. This conviction also means that I actually do not truly regret making non-sinful decisions, because in retrospect they don't seem to be "wrong." They led me to where I am today and perhaps that's part of a plan.

JaimeRoberto said...

My Way. The Loser's Anthem.

Harold said...

I always read that as "No Regerts" thanks to a collection of "Tattoo Fails" pictures I remember seeing years ago.

Josephbleau said...

Regret is usually tied to life’s great question, was I the asshole?

Banjo said...

"Only the sphinx has no regrets."

The loss of the nose blasted off by Napoleon's artillery?

GingerBeer said...

My experience has been that those who state they have no regrets have been prolific liars and cheaters in all other matters, and their statement on regrets was nothing more than a defense mechanism. Usually expressed in tandem with "I did what I thought was right."

donald said...

I got regrets out the ying yang.

rcocean said...

No use crying over split milk. So, no regrets for me. Why? I did it my way. Seriously, there's no use in feeling sad or sorrowful over something that can't be redone. If it can be undone, then repent and sin no more. Or if you've injured someone, make it up to them if possible. Otherwise, its water under the bridge.

I love that song when sung by Piaf.

DEEBEE said...

No, no regrets. Alway a twinge when I see siblings getting along — doubts on whether “years of waiting” to pull the trigger of total silence could have waited just a tad.