Notable Bible teacher and Desiring God founder John Piper has taken issue with the popular cultural goal of pursuing a “life without regrets.”
In an episode of “Ask Pastor John” posted to desiringGod.org on Monday, a 72-year-old man asked Piper about his own feelings of regret when looking back at his life.
“I can look back on many opportunities I missed in life: missions trips I did not take, missionaries I did not support, even professional opportunities I did not take and probably should have, ways to better invest and redeem my time at every stage along the way,” the man said.
“Is it possible for an older man to look back over his life and conclude that I frequently missed God’s will over the years? Or is who I am now the will of God perfectly manifested in all my decisions, and therefore, I should have no regrets at all?” the man asked.
In response, Piper listed four important things to consider when addressing regrets, one of them being that it's “good to remember our sins and feel regret.”
“A life without regrets is built on a mirage,” Piper said. “If you don’t see sins when you’re looking back over your life, and you don’t regret those sins, you’re not seeing reality. You’re not feeling reality. You’re seeing a mirage.”
“There were plenty of attitudes, words, deeds that were not for the glory of God but selfish, not loving but uncaring, not from faith but from fear. There were plenty of things that came out of your mouth that were not designed for upbuilding, and plenty of good paths taken with defective motives.”
Piper said that to remember one’s failing in life “deepens and intensifies our thankfulness for grace,” quoting First Timothy 1:15 as justification.
“Paul never forgot his regretful past. Writing near the end of his life, he said, ‘The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost’ … That was a regret, and he never forgot it,” continued Piper.
Piper’s comments go against the popular trend of other philosophers and social commentators who have written columns aimed at creating a “life without regrets.”
For example, author and life coach Grace Bluerock penned a listicle for The Huffington Post in 2017 aimed at giving readers “10 Ways to Live Life With No Regrets."
“As a former hospice social worker, I learned a lot about regret. It was shocking how many of my hospice patients got to the end of their lives wishing they had lived differently,” she wrote at the time.
“We never know how long we will live, so we must make conscious choices each day to live fully and make the most out of each experience we have.”
Her list included “Let your loved ones know you love them,” “Follow your dream,” “Trust your gut instincts,” “Keep your work at work,” “Take risks,” “Take life less seriously,” “Turn ‘failures’ into stepping stones,” “Practice forgiveness,” “Be yourself,” and “Practice kindness.”
“Our lives are meant to be lived fully and completely, without regret,” concluded Bluerock. “We never know how long we have, so let's start living a life free of regrets today and every day.”