You’ve probably thought this. You see a nice looking young lady or gentleman. You notice a tattoo on their arm, or shoulder, or neck, or other places and you think, “I bet down the road, when they get older, they’ll wish they had never gotten that tattoo.” OK, if you are under forty, you probably haven’t thought this, since 40 percent of Americans between the age of 26 and 40 now have a tattoo. But even some of that 40 percent are having second thoughts about their tattoos.
An article in the “News & Observer” by Josh Shaffer a couple of years ago stated that 17 percent of the people who have gotten tattoos now regret getting them. That means almost one out of five wishes they didn’t have that tattoo on their arm, shoulder, neck, or other places. But getting rid of a tattoo isn’t that easy. It may take several laser treatments to remove that name or design that, at one time, you thought would be “cool.” And the removal is even more painful than the original inking of the tattoo and can be quite expensive. Businesses are making good money helping people get rid of tattoos, something they now regret.
Although it may be painful and expensive, tattoos are one thing that we regret that can be eliminated. It is sad to say that there are probably other regrets in our lives that we would gladly pay a price or suffer some pain to eliminate. The problem is that we can’t.
It’s hard to recover from a foolish financial decision, or a lifetime of poor health habits. You may regret it or wish you had your time back, but it’s too late. There may have been poor relationship choices or a boneheaded career move. You may have thought you were doing the right thing at the time or you may not have been thinking at all. In the end, it really doesn’t matter. It is what it is. What are you going to do?
Paul could have looked back on his life with regret. The apostle who wrote much of the New Testament was once a persecutor of the early Christian church. He watched with approval as the mob stoned and killed Stephen. Before his Damascus Road experience and conversion, Paul was the chief agent of the Jews in the tracking down and persecution of Christians. And he was good at it. Because of Paul, many of the early Christians were captured, thrown in dungeons, beaten, and some, like Stephen, were even killed. I’m sure after Paul became a Christian he regretted his actions as a Jewish Pharisee. Along the way he must have come in contact with many Christians who were affected by his days as chief attack dog for the Jews.
How did he react? Did his regret over past actions paralyze Paul after becoming a Christian? His writing gives a clue as to his response and maybe gives us the way to deal with things that happened in our past that we now may regret. First, admit the mistake. I’m sure there are many people who now regret that trip to the tattoo parlor, but won’t admit it. Paul, in his first letter to Timothy said he was “formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man.”(1Tim. 1:13) Second, ask forgiveness from God and others, if necessary. Paul wrote a few verses later, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” (1 Tim. 1:15)
Finally, press on. That’s often hard. Toward the end of his life, Paul wrote to the Philippians, “One thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:13.14) Forgetting may not be that easy. Like looking at that unfortunate tattoo in the mirror every morning, you may have to face the results of the thing you regret every day. But, I suppose the key is to keep pressing forward.
I’ve heard professional speakers talk about living a life without regrets. I’m not sure that’s possible. And, as far as that tattoo is concerned, it looks like there is going to continue to be a demand for tattoo removal.
Mac McPhail, raised in Sampson County, lives in Clinton and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org