“Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life.” (Gen.45:5)
The dictionary will tell you that regret is sorrow or disappointment due to some external circumstance or event, or else pain because of something done, or left undone, in one’s past. God’s Word, however, is not as sympathetic. Instead of words like pain, sorrow, and disappointment, God describes it as “anger.” According to this verse, regret is a manifestation of self-directed rage. We should not confuse godly sorrow (2 Cor.7:10) with regret or remorse. The former brings repentance, seeks forgiveness, and then moves on. The latter may or may not have the first two elements of godly sorrow, but with a lingering bitterness that seethes below the surface and saps away the ability to press ahead.
Paul the Apostle would have been a prime candidate for the league of regrets. As one who spent the first part of his life opposing Jesus Christ and persecuting Christians, he could easily have spent the remainder of it in pietistic penance, dwelling on the harm he had done. But, instead, he chose to disregard what could not be changed and focus on what could be accomplished (Philip.3:13).
Someone has characterized regret as the best of me contemplating the worst of me; but that is not the case. The best of me has other, more important, things to do. It is only a self-righteous form of the worst of me that gazes pityingly on itself and says, “Why?” and “If only…”
Ecclesiastes 7:9 tells us that anger lies in the bosom of fools, and regret—just another form of anger—is found in the same place.