Somehow, somewhere, someone popularized the saying and expression of having "no regrets." It's an attitude that basically looks at everything in a positive light; a choice that even times in your life where you were awkward, petty, cruel or vicious should not be regretted because those moments have led you to become the person that you are today.
While I can understand the idea and mentality that one should learn from their mistakes and become a better person afterwards, the idea of not regretting the situations that forced the learning experience seems strange to me. It also seems selfish. There are times where I have been needlessly unkind to people that didn't deserve it. There were times when I have been selfish, thoughtless, lazy and mean-spirited. Even if I learned to be less selfish, thoughtless, lazy and mean-spirited in the future, how can I not regret having needed a reminder of why I shouldn't treat people poorly?
When I was about 4 years old, my family was living in Boise, Idaho. We lived far outside of town, with one neighbor within 10 miles, and a home that was straight out of the frontier. We had a river that ran through our property, with mountains, forests, lots of snow, and a disgusting hyrbid mix of a dog that used to shit between the floor boards of our deck. The dog had an entire wilderness in which he could relieve himself, but he would always shit on the deck or in the spot directly by the door of my Dad's truck. There's no one on the planet that could convince me it wasn't personal. Anyway, my strongest memory of that time is a case where my Dad was mad at me for something I had done wrong. I ran to my Mom and she was consoling me. My Dad saw that I was upset and he felt horrible and tried to make friends. I looked up at him and yelled "NO! I only want Mom!"
That was 25 years ago and I still remember how badly that hurt my Dad's feelings. That is something that I regret saying to this day. I guess the lesson would be think before you speak, but I regret that such an experience was necessary to learn that lesson.
There was another case in Junior High School where I was waiting to play basketball with some friends and a few kids that I didn't know. This was when we all first started noticing girls, and a few of the kids that I didn't know were talking about how they wished they could get some girl to pay attention to them. I turned to them, and I have NO idea why I did this, but I said, "Like you guys could get girls." Ignore for the moment that I certainly had zero experience with women and wouldn't know what to do with one if I came across one naked and begging me, but what a flat-out dick thing to say. They didn't say anything back, but just kind of slunk away. I regretted it immediately, and still do. I knew then that you don't treat people like that, and I certainly shouldn't have needed a reminder why not. I just said it to be an asshole, I guess. And that brings me to my problem with the "no regrets" attitude. If you view my comments to those kids or my Dad as a good thing because I learned from it, then you would be placing my education and self-betterment as more important than the pain and hurt that I caused.
In my opinion, if you do wrong, then you deserve the regret that you have to feel in the minutes, days, months and years following it and whenever you look back on it. Viewing every fucked-up thing that you have ever done as some educational, harmless and understandable act just seems to make light of the pain that you caused someone. Living your life with guilt and sadness over the mistakes that you made can keep you from living a full life in the present. I am not making the argument that one should let guilt of the past get in the way of their future, but some small acknowledgement in the form of regret seems a worthy enough burden for having betrayed someone's sense of self-worth, confidence or trust.