Three Easy Steps to Living with No Regrets

Below is an excerpt from my guest post for Mary’s website: Butterfly Living.

The unkind comment quickly rolled off my tongue.

Like a snap reaction, the snarky statement left my mouth intended to hurt the person who just hurt me. Overcome with anger, I could not see how disrespectful and harsh my response had been.

Can you relate? Do you struggle with saying whatever you think. Like a volcano ready to erupt, you explode on those closest to you and leave a wake of disaster behind you.

This was a problem for me for many years. Honestly, it is embarrassing to admit to you about my reactivity issue. But my hope is that we can learn from my negative experience and find tools to help us respond and not react.

As I look back now, I have so much regret over the hurtful words spoken to my loved ones.

Maybe you also have regretted what you said. The cruel words flow out of your mouth so fast; you wish you could draw them back in, but it is too late.   

There is power in our words!

Harsh words sting our souls causing fractures in our relationships. Like a sword to the heart, our communication has the power to pierce and hurt others deeply or bring peace and comfort others beautifully.

With God’s help and strength, I know we can own our responses and take responsibility for our words. We can stop blaming our overreaction on others, and instead use our words to encourage build others up.

Thankfully, I have made tremendous progress in this area through counseling and prayer. I am still far from perfect, but I am quick to see my mistakes and repair the rupture when I do mess up.   

Becoming more self-aware is a key step in this process, so today, I want to share with you three easy steps to help you live with no regrets.

1. The Gift of the Pause

My brain runs a million miles a minute and my mouth follows right behind. Never stopping to think before I spoke, I would say whatever mean words came to my mind. As I was learning to control my responses, one of my growth steps was learning the gift of a pause. I highly recommend this for you too!

There is power in waiting long enough to take 3-5 deep breaths or count slowly to 10. Our brain can jump straight into fight or flight mode when we are triggered, so the pause helps us get grounded and allows the frontal lobe of the brain to stay in control and make decisions.

I think this is why James tells us, “You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” (James 1:19) Listening requires pausing. Slowing down. Thinking before exploding. All important to living with no regrets in our reactions. So next time, you are ready to erupt, countdown backwards from 10 and watch how the sudden break and silence calms you down. Then, you can think before you speak and respond well.

2. Identify Your Triggers

Have you ever heard the saying, “If it is hysterical, it is historical”? I learned this phrase from my counselor in the years following my divorce. As she was helping me stay self-controlled in my responses, she introduced me to triggers. When our reactions are bigger than normal, more than likely it stems from something in our past. Since our overreactions usually connect to something painful in our childhood, learning to identify our triggers is another important growth step.

You may be thinking, How do you know your triggers?

My counselor told me to pay attention to what happens right before I am ready to blow my top. When my heart is racing and my blood pressure is rising, what just happened. Did someone disappoint you or say hurtful words to you? Perhaps your circumstances stirred up fear and worry? Identify the emotion behind the anger and see if there is a pattern each time. As you trace these negative emotions and what circumstances activated them, you will begin to connect them to the past and identify your triggers.

To read the final point of my guest post, please click this link to Mary’s website: Butterfly Living.

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