Have you ever decided to live without regret? I told myself I wanted that, once - for about 30 seconds.
It's easy to see negative emotions as a terrible thing, to be avoided at all costs. It's the message the world sends us: guilt and regret are wastes of time. We should live our lives to the fullest, crammed with as many happy emotions as possible. This may seem like good advice at first. After all, who wants to feel bad? Won't eliminating negative emotions give us better lives overall? For those who don't hold to an objective morality, especially, these things may seem completely useless, and it would make sense to avoid them at all costs.
Simply put, why waste time on regret?
The answer to this is simple, but it's not easy. Sorrow, guilt, and regret - these emotions tell us that there is something fundamentally broken about our world. Whether it's a flaw in ourselves or in what's around us, we are constantly reminded of the stark reality that God's beautiful creation has been stained by sin. We should always attempt to minimize the need for regret, but refusal to acknowledge the reality of the mistakes we have made will lead to dangerous consequences for our consciences. Ecclesiastes 3:4 tells us that there is "a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance".
That said, negative emotions are not necessarily good in themselves. To disregard them flaunts the imperfections of this world, but that does not mean we should dwell on them. We must acknowledge our sins, yet we must also remember that they have been forgiven. The guilt we feel should not consume us - instead, it should serve to highlight God's grace all the more. It is through knowing our guilt that we are shown our need for a saviour.
There is also a danger in allowing our guilt to define our lives. This can lead down different paths: some may use their awareness of their sins as an excuse for future wrongdoing, reasoning that if they are sinful by nature, there is no point in fighting it. Others may choose to wallow in their guilt, letting it consume them and rejecting any possibility of redemption, believing themselves to be beyond hope. Both of these, however, trivialize the immensity of God's grace. He is infinitely greater than any sin we could ever commit.
We should not reject any emotion out of hand, regardless of how unpleasant it may be. Whether it is regret or pride, sorrow or joy, these all serve a valuable purpose in analyzing the world around us. But when we let one emotion rule our lives, then we gain a twisted perspective of both God and His creation.