Remorse and Regret

Last night I watched a powerful documentary called American Anarchist.  Here the subject of the documentary differentiates between remorse and regret, which I found curious, because when you look at his story how could you not regret your past actions.  At 19 he was an angry young man who wrote what could arguably be called one of the most inflammatory books of the 20th century.  It was called The Anarchist’s Cookbook.

I remember being 16 and seeing this book at the bookstore I was working at, it came out one day from behind the counter and the older ladies working at the store told me it was illegal to sell in this country and it was a terrible book written for terrorists.  Needless to say, it soon disappeared and was never seen again.

I suspect a book sales rep must have dropped it off as a curiosity for the staff to see as this book that was gaining such notoriety in a negative way in America.  Since that day there have been many acts of terrorism that have been linked to this book, and this documentary was about how the author of the book deals with that fallout, and how he now views the book.

He said that he is filled with remorse, but remorse and regret are two different things, and the essence of what he was trying to get across was; if he hadn’t written the book at all, his life would’ve played out differently than the way it did, which ultimately led him to work as a teacher with disadvantaged children as a way of helping kids in need, which was something he had felt was missing in his life as a child and led him to be such an angry young man in the first place.

We often focus on the past in a regretful way, yet it is important to realize that it has been the impetus for growth which has made us what we are today.  This documentary highlighted that energy so succinctly, and it has made me think about shifting my regrets to a softer essence such as remorse.  Do you have regrets about the past, or are you able to shift your thinking into a more complex layer such as remorse?  That essence which integrates sadness, but acknowledges it has helped build the person you are today.