What Makes Us Do Things We Regret?

A Regretful Moment

Have you ever done something that later on you wished you could have taken it back?  I remember a time when I had an argument with my Mother.  In the heat of the moment, I said something that I could tell really hurt her.  Later on I apologized, but I could tell that I had done some damage to my relationship.

Why Do Regrettable Things?

Why do we regret some of the actions that we do?  It is because later, after the deed was done, that we realize that what we did was not a good idea.  But if it was not a good idea to begin with, why did we decide to do it in the first place?  The answer is found in the fact that we want to be satisfied instantly, whether it’s about winning an argument, wanting something before it was time to have it, or trading something more valuable for something that we think is important right now.

Meet Esau: Mr. Instant Gratification

Instant gratification usually causes us to do things that we would regret later on.  This was the case for Esau in Genesis 25:29-34.  Esau had come back from a day long hunting trip empty handed and he was famished.  He saw his twin brother Jacob, cooking some red stew.  I am sure that the sweet aroma coming from the stew made Esau’s mouth water, he would give anything for a bowl of Jacob’s cooking.

A Hasty Trade

Jacob was probably aware of this and used it to his advantage.  The price for one bowl of Jacob’s stew was Esau’s birthright.  Surprisingly Esau accepted the deal and went away with a bowl of stew.  The Scripture tells us that Esau’s impulsive choice showed that he did not consider his birthright more valuable than food (verse 34).

Was it a Fair Trade?

Now we can say that is was wrong of Jacob to ask such a price for a bowl of stew; but let’s consider the actions of Esau.  Although he was faint with hunger, was selling his birthright for good cooking an even trade?  Of course not!

The Value of the Birthright

The birthright was Esau right as the first born.  It gave him ownership over his father Isaac’s estate at the time of his death.  That meant that he had first dibs of all that his father had and Jacob would receive the left-overs, which wasn’t much.  So in the long run, the birthright had much more value than any bowl of food that Jacob could ever cook.

Using Your Head

What is it that we can learn from Esau?  When making choices, it is important to stop and use your head; practicing common sense.  Do you really want to take money out of your checking account in order to buy that corvette right now, or should you just wait and save your money so that you can buy it out right?  Do you really want to say those hateful words to your friend right now, or do you want to take a pause and think about it for a moment before you speak?

A Sign of Maturity

Displaying common sense and delaying gratification is a sign of spiritual maturity.  It’s clear that Esau didn’t have either.  Instead he let his emotions and physical hunger dictate his choices.  Let’s learn from Esau’s example.  When we are angry with someone, we shouldn’t speak instantly what we feel about them.  If you’re hungry and you want that candy (even though you are on a diet), quickly walk away and buy some gum instead.  If you want to buy something, but you can’t afford it so you consider using a credit card, stop and ask yourself, “How’s this going to help me in the long run?”

Don’t Be Esau

A person who is a follower of Christ will always consider the long term effects of their choices.  How will my actions bring glory to the Lord?  If the decision doesn’t answer the question positively then you shouldn’t pursue it.  Remember, don’t pull an Esau.



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