Once, I was walking home from work. Across the street, I saw some bigger kids beating up a smaller kid.
Every instinct told me to help. Which one did I listen to? The voice that said, “Don’t get involved.”
So, I didn’t.
I can only hope he’s fine, that he worked out his own issues and all of that.
But having walked away as I did, that feeling I had? I never forgot it. It was awful. While I did not cause the issue, I also did nothing to assist. I worried about making the problem worse: My intervention would mean greater retaliation for the kid once I was gone and really, how much could I help? this was pre cell phones. So, I could yell, raise my voice? Not much else really.
In the end did I make the right decision? In all likelihood, probably.
Would I make the same decision now? I don’t know. I think I’d probably get involved some how. Or… maybe I’d do exactly the same thing.
But the difference between then and now is: I remember the feeling I got by not intervening. Not a good feeling. So, whether I’d want a repeat of that feeling or take the chance of helping even if it backfired? I don’t know.
A purely rational system of risk/reward analysis can only get one so far. I suffer often from analysis paralysis from time to time. The emotional “push” is needed. So in a sense, this experience was good as it gives me that additional metric: the emotional push stemming from the regret I felt at not having acted previously.
So, the calculation in the future is forever modified. I don’t know if it’s enough, but that’s at least one point in the favor of the potential value of regret.