There are times of regret for all of us. We fall short of something we perceive as an “ought”. We know it’s there and we fail, at times, in following it. What does this universal “I’m sorry” mean? I think it means that there is something within everything that speaks to a higher purpose. It says there is a better way to live that we can embrace or not. When we don’t, it creates regret. We even see this among those we would consider the most depraved individuals in society. It might be just regret for what happens to their families or friends. Still, that “I’m sorry” says something.
Now, this regret could be just considered some local psychological encoding in biology or culture that has no profound significance. Is that convincing? Not for most. If so, it could be cavalierly dismissed as sentimentalism but who really does that?
Instead, I think this regret reflects the divine transcendent depth within everything that powerfully tries to express itself within the limitations, trials, and ambiguities of life. It is ever-present, urging us on to be the best we can be. When we follow that urging there is something within us that feels good about it. It says we are at least partially in tune with the eternal potential for love and beauty in the world.