They are the outcome of a decision made prematurely, a thoughtless action or inaction, an impulsive act made without forethought.
A missed opportunity.
I have never fully understood (and in many ways, envied) people who say confidently they have lived a life with "no regrets." No regrets? Really? Haven't you made mistakes you wished you could take back? Haven't you ever found yourself looking back on a circumstance, only to realize, "I could have been a better friend, made a nobler decision, acted with greater courage or authenticity?" I have. All of the above.
To me, if someone I love or care about was hurt in anyway by my action or lack thereof? That is a regret.
It's not that living with regrets is a "bad thing." It's a life thing. It's a great teacher. It forces us to reflect; to look back on former decisions so that in our future, we will make better ones.
Regrets keep us humble, and humility is a character trait that is both rare and precious. Regrets remind us that we need grace--and in turn, we would do ourselves well to offer that same grace to others.
This article was shared with me by a friend and colleague who thought it would be a great read for this class. It is thought provoking. Hopefully, it will remind you that while we might not be one of those "lucky few" who live "without regrets," we are among those who discover some profound purpose in every single one of them.