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Sunday Musings 9/26/10 Remorse vs. Regret

From Crossfit.com.

Sunday musings…

1) “Art without Commerce is a hobby.”

2) Border Collie. The obvious inspiration for the Everready Bunny.

3) Rational Self-Interest. Have you read any Heinlein? If so you know exactly what I mean when I write TANSTAAFL. If we examine much (all?) of what we see or read about and drill down to the bottom, isn’t it fascinating how often we see the underlying self-interest that informed the action?

Much of modern Economics, especially Behavioral Economics of course, is centered on this essential premise, that events and behaviors can be understood or predicted based on the assumption of rational self-interest.

Altruism, behaviors that are truly counter to rational self-interest, if it really exists, is the fly in the ointment. How to explain altruism when so much else, indeed almost ALL else, can be so accurately explained by rational self-interest?

4) Sorry? It’s rather amazing how many apologies to which we’ve been subjected lately, eh? Famous athletes, movie and rock stars, politicians, all proffering “heartfelt” apologies for some indiscretion or another. But are they sorry? Sorry for what they have done? Or is it something more…I dunno…less? Regret, perhaps.

There’s quite a gulf between regret and true remorse. Remorse is a deep emotional response that touches on shame. Regret, not so much. Regret is a more superficial emotion, a sadness or maybe a disappointment, more closely attached to rational self-interest whereas remorse is more akin to altruism. Remorse is more outwardly projected: I’m sorry for the effect on the OTHER. Regret much more inward, more centered on self. Think about the last few very public “apologies” you’ve heard or seen recently. Any true remorse?

How does one apply this difference in every day life, other than as a determinant in how we feel about the news we read? Well, regret lends itself to strategy and tactics, a certain calculus or cost/benefit analysis applied to the road ahead, or applied to the fall-out of the road behind. Rational.

Remorse on the other hand seems to me to be purely reactive. Not amenable to planning because whatever we’ve done to prompt true remorse, to be truly sorry, to feel ashamed, is nothing one would ever make a rational choice to do. We FEEL sorry, we don’t think it. We feel the pain of the other and we feel truly sorry for our part in it.

And there, my Brothers and Sisters, is where the line between regret and remorse lies. That outward extension of ourselves toward the other, so easy (I think) to see it when it’s real and so obvious when it’s not. Just as regret could be seen as a form of rational self-interest (I’m sorry I got caught), we might think of remorse as emotional altruism (I’m sorry I’ve let you down).

To remember our remorse for actions in the past is to remind ourselves of the presence of others as we act now.

I’ll see you next week…

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5 Responses to “Sunday Musings 9/26/10 Remorse vs. Regret”

  1. September 26th, 2010 at 1:48 pm

    elizabeth hurwitz says:

    1. “Art without commerce is a hobby” is a keeper.
    2. From personal experience, I thought that Australian Sheperds were the inspiration for Energizer Bunnies. Who knew the Borders were there first?

  2. September 26th, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    elizabeth hurwitz says:

    3. Remorse is too closely affiliated with guilt. There’s a temptation to view a situation that remorse is associated with as permanent and wildly independent of other possible factors. Regret offers the opportunity to reconsider the situation and to act differently in the future. Just a thought. Thanks for your blog.

  3. September 26th, 2010 at 4:52 pm

    darrellwhite says:

    I was certainly speaking from personal experience! Ours is mostly Border Collie with just enough Aussie Shepherd to make both of us correct.

  4. September 26th, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    darrellwhite says:

    I’m comfortable with your interpretation, Elizabeth, but I’m also comfortable with the behavioral modification that can be brought about through remorse, or for that matter guilt or shame. Having said that I DO feel that remorse is separate enough from guilt that we can avoid all of the baggage that guilt brings with it (FWIW, I am the son of a very Catholic Mom who in many ways wishes she was Jewish…I know guilt). It’s the externalized view, the realization and acceptance of the effect of our actions on the other that separates remorse from both regret and guilt. One can have regret without remorse, but I don’t think one can have remorse without regret.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  5. November 13th, 2010 at 2:41 am

    Ron Tedwater says:

    Really nice post,thank you

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