The "No Regrets" slogan makes me cringe. The t-shirts are bad enough, but it's the #NoRegrets Twitter hashtag that really gets me. #NoRegrets is a way to rationalize why short-term pleasure can trump long-term prudence, or a way to look back and see unwise or immoral behaviour as really not that bad after all.
It's just a slogan, I know. But 'tis the season for looking back, for the inevitable "and how was your year?" conversations. #NoRegrets papers over any chance for real reflection. Every year, for every person, will hold some achievements and some failures. Owning both is how we mature.
In the 2012 Cardus world, we can look back to see most of our projects take major steps forward. We met new people, sharpened and advanced our research, grew and focused our publications, and mostly achieved the goals for our year. Certainly we did it all with #SomeRegrets, some pride, some hope.
#NoRegrets? None of us would say that, about anything in or out of our control. Within the Cardus staff family, we suffered four deaths involving next-of-kin. Sickness and other difficulties, whether they involved us directly or those close to us, were clouds which obscured the sunshine.
The Cardus family's experience of 2012 is, I suspect, widely shared. And it isn't just the divide between the personal and organizational. When we are in the garden enjoying the roses, we prick ourselves on the thorns. When we are sloshing in the mud, trying to find firm ground, we happen upon a diamond. What #NoRegrets reflects is an empty attempt to subsume the bad and its consequences with a bold embracing of the good and pleasurable. It seeks to define the bad out of existence and reframe our experience into a confident attitude of achievement, declaring that whatever the reality we face, we will have no regrets. But the pain of our bodies and the hurt of our hearts tell us this isn't real. It is fake, a short-lived faith in the now.
Surviving everyday life, let alone thriving in it, requires something deeper. That's why Cardus tries to understand life—not just the religious parts, not just the think tank parts, but all parts of it—through the prism of 2,000 years of Christian social thought. Roses and mud, thorns and diamonds are all parts of lives well ordered.
I entered #ThankfulHope into Twitter—there no results to show. I still recommend sharing it, though, if in the darkest and most painful moments of the year gone by, you found blessings to be experienced—and even if they did not undo the pain.
For me, even in those darkest moments, the reality of gospel hope shone where I could see it. Ugliness, brokenness, sin, death will not have the final word. That's why we celebrate Christmas. That's at the root of Christian social thought—the last 2,000 years of it, and the last 12 months of it.
Yes, #ThankfulHope trumps #NoRegrets. Merry Christmas.