This review appeared in the Jul-Sep 2011 vol. 168 no. 3 issue of Biblotheca Sacra, DTS’s quarterly academic journal.Subscribe Today
Regret-Free Living: Hope for Past Mistakes and Freedom from Unhealthy PatternsBethany House Publishers, Bloomington, MN May 1, 2011
Arterburn writes, “As radio host of ‘New Life Live,’ a daily one-hour call-in show, I can honestly say that at no other time in my life have I heard the voices of more people saturated with regret” (p. 11). His objective in this book is to teach techniques that will empower Christians to make better decisions instead of being weighed down with remorse or regret. Arterburn does this by using well-constructed outlines and anecdotal evidence to support each point.
The book discusses seven signs of an unhealthy relationship: resentment, animosity, secrecy, power jockeying, unresolved problems, unhealthy alliances, and putting oneself first. This list of negative characteristics encourages readers to get in touch with their feelings and note what might be occurring relationally. Arterburn provides stories to illustrate each sign of an unhealthy relationship. He suggests, “You can’t experience [regret-free living] without putting your hope and trust in God. You must admit where you are, then ask God to do with you what only God can. Turn over your self-pity and pain and begin to focus on what you can do today, while at the same time believing that God will do the miraculous in your life over the years still ahead” (p. 39).
The goal of the chapter “Admitting the State of Affairs” is to encourage readers to take an honest assessment of how they are contributing to their regret-filled relationships. With a great deal of vulnerability Arterburn discusses how his own marriage failed and how he experienced difficulty following his own advice in this section. Before he realized it, he explains, “the situation I’d been creating all crashed down upon me. The collapse of the married life I’d known was so painful that I didn’t know if I could work through it; I didn’t, in fact, know if there even was life on the other side of it” (p. 46). Arterburn then suggests that the essential key to avoiding regret is to stop and take a periodic inventory of one’s relationships.
Another chapter addresses how to end a relationship in a healthy way. Regardless of how well a person attempts to make things better, the efforts may not always result in a positive outcome. Sometimes relationships must come to an end. “Living a regret-free life means being honest about everything you did to help create your regrets and honest about how you felt when someone else was hurtful to you” (p. 93). The key, he suggests, is to know that one has done everything possible either to reconcile or to improve the relationship; afterwards one must live with the decision. This echos Paul’s admonition, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Rom. 12:18, NIV).
Arterburn also focuses on six qualities of a happy, regret-free relationship: affection, respect, shared values, honesty, trust, and freedom to be all that one can be by God’s grace. These characteristics are the core essentials of a healthy and spiritually edifying relationship. The last quality clarifies what it means to be someone God uniquely created and suggests that grace is the guiding principle in interpersonal relationships.
This book can help readers as they seek to live a regret-free life. Although the book is not a substitute for counseling, it is a good resource for beginning the process of performing an honest inventory of one’s past and present relationships.
—Jason K. Neill with Glenn R. Kreider