Let it stand
Do you have any regrets? If you could wave a magic wand, what choices in your life would you take back or change?
Ponder on that. Seriously.
With a list of regretful choices in mind, now ponder this: What makes you think your life would have turned out any better if you were to have changed those choices?
I’ll tell you why you have regret by sharing with you the favorite word of proud writers like myself. That word is “stet,” from the Latin meaning “let it stand.”
Stet is what we use to professionally tell intrusive editors to butt out when they’re straying off their reservation and into the sacred territory of our style and deliberate intention.
Economist and writer Thomas Sowell explains how we pompous and irascible writers take great pleasure in dropping the word at the slightest provocation:
“Pointing out unclear passages, or even suggesting a complete reorganization of a manuscript, are legitimate editorial functions. Becoming an unwanted co-author is not…
“The real secret of the editor’s power, in a situation where the writer has the last word on editorial suggestions, is the editor’s ability to waste the writer’s time. When a book-length manuscript is sent back to the author with several hundred editorial changes, the deck is already stacked in favor of accepting a fait accompli. But there are ways of neutralizing that leverage. Having a rubber stamp made up with the word STET’ on it can help, for example, especially if one gets a red ink pad to use with it.”
All of us have a meddlesome, nit-picking editor between our ears called the inner critic. The inner critic is constantly editing our lives, slashing through past choices with the blazing red pen of rumination.
“Why did you do it that way? You should have done this instead.”
“How could possibly have been so stupid?”
“You ought to be ashamed of yourself.”
“Your sister never would have made that mistake.”
Whenever you see the red marks appearing across the pages of your history, the best response is to pull out the rubber stamp and silence the inner critic with a big fat STET across the page.
Let it stand. Leave it alone. The past is set in stone, and no amount of ruminative editing can change that. Face reality as it is and live with the consequences. Learn and move forward.
In the early stages of reclaiming your life from the inner judge, smack the stamp with sassy attitude. Take pleasure in putting the petty little busybody in his place.
Over time, you’ll learn to take a more gentle and compassionate approach. Not the harsh defensiveness of the insecure writer, but the soft acceptance of the wise sage. You’ll learn to offer your stet not with feisty curses, but with a peaceful smile. You’ll stop fighting your inner critic and simply release him instead.
Whatever mistakes you’ve made in the past, you were doing the best you could given your level of knowledge and awareness. You were only trying to be happy. You may have missed the mark, but you get to try again. It’s all part of the process of learning and growth. God still loves you infinitely and unconditionally.
In truth, defensiveness toward the inner critic is evidence that you still believe him. But that’s okay — standing up to him is a necessary first step.
The ultimate win is a gentle, compassionate, whole-hearted acceptance of the reality of your past.
No matter what you’ve done, you are amazing. You are perfect just the way you are. Life is perfect just as it is. You are right where you should be to learn exactly what you need. You have nothing to regret, no mistakes to edit.
And if your inner critic tries to tell you differently, pull out your rubber stamp.
P.S. Silence the inner critic with these books
If you struggle with shaming yourself, I urge you to read Soul Without Shame: A Guide to Liberating Yourself From the Judge Within by Byron Brown and Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself by Dr. Kristin Neff.