A woman I don't know called me yesterday, because she'd read a piece I'd written in Daily Guideposts about Big Guy's anxiety issues. Her third grader has just been diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. We spent quite a while on the phone, talking about our children.
At one point she mentioned that she'd had to take a strong medication during her pregnancy. "I sometimes wonder if that's the reason I have such an anxious little boy," she said.
"You can't go there," I replied, "You're never going to know why this happened (at least in this life). And you can't beat yourself up about it. You need every bit of your energy for dealing with what you have to deal with."
We all make decisions we later regret. We make them based on the information we have at the time, and we make them with forethought, and we make them by weighing the risks that we see. We never have perfect information.
There was a reason my caller took that medicine, and it was a good reason at the time. There was a reason I handled Big Guy's meltdowns the way I did when he was six, and it was a good reason. If I knew then what I know now about anxiety disorders, I would have done some things differently. But I didn't know. There's no way I could have known, short of divine intervention. So I've got to let that one go.
I believe there's guilt you can do something about -- and should. If you did wrong, and have something to apologize for and make amends for, then do it. Take responsibility, take courage, and do the right thing. And figure out what to change in your life so you don't repeat the mistake.
But there's also faux-guilt, which will cripple you if you accept it into your heart, and keep you living in regret when you need to be living your life. It's the creeping sense that something's your fault even though you did the best you could, gathered the information that was available, and thought things through to the best of your ability. If you didn't know, you didn't know. Let it go.