Repentance is a lie

Okay, so no, not really, but I did catch your attention though, didn’t I? Repentance is a very true principle, but we’re doing it wrong.

How many Sunday School lessons have we been in where they’ve spoken about the “Six steps of Repentance”? They go through the entire list:

  1. Feel Godly Sorrow
  2. Confess to God
  3. Ask for Forgiveness
  4. Rectify Problems
  5. Forsake Sin
  6. Receive Forgiveness

No, no, no, no, NO! It wasn’t until recently that I really realized this, and it’s been bugging me ever since. Repentance is NOT a checklist. And unfortunately, that’s how I, and I’m sure many others in the Church view repentance, too. “Darn, I slipped up again this weekend. Do I feel bad about it? Yeah! I do. Okay, perfect. Check! Did that one. Now, have I confessed it yet? Yep. I said I was sorry. Done. Okay, next. Have I asked for forgiveness? Yeah. I can pray for that tonight. Next…” Does that sound like sincerity to you? We’re doing something wrong.

What does the word “repentance” actually mean? If we go to the Greek translation of the word, we find a little bit more meaning. Repentance comes from the word “metanoia”. “Meta” means “change” and “noia” is “mind.” Repentance literally means to change your mind. Does it sound like our little checklist accomplishes that task? Don’t think so. If we take the latin root “mens-” that translates to “mind” as well, it gives us a little more insight. Your mind is not simply your thoughts and what you’re thinking. It’s where you’re focused. It’s your orientation. It’s where you headed. Repentance is changing the way you are, where you’ve been, and where you’re going now.

So, how do we do this? To be honest, I don’t know. I have no idea. Repentance is difficult. So many times in my life I’ve thought, “Okay, I’m really sick of this. I want to change it.” And then two days later, I slip up again and fall right back to where I was before. Was that repentance? No, obviously not. I haven’t changed. The intent is there. I want to, but I haven’t completely changed my orientation.

One thing that has always driven me crazy are goals imposed by other people. If someone comes up and says, “Okay, we’re going to get 100% home teaching this month.” Okay, I mean, yeah, that’s something great to strive for, but just forcing it on me doesn’t necessarily stress the importance of the task, the reasoning behind it, and the willpower to do it. Unless I finally get fed up with something and decide for myself, “That’s it. I’m putting my foot down. I’m going to do this”, then I probably won’t do it.

Ultimately, the best way I’ve found to repent is just to be brought down to the pits of misery, to the ground, to where the guilt is unbearable. Only at those times am I so disgusted and sick of myself that I’m fully willing to devote my entire heart and soul to changing, and that’s when I finally do. If we don’t feel that way, we can pray for the desire to want to change.

Going back to our six steps of repentance — I don’t think it’s a bad model. I really don’t. But more than anything, I believe it should be used more as a guide rather than a rubric to grade ourselves by. It should be a helpful indication of where we’re at on the repentance process, not something to be accomplished. I think we all need to change the way that we view repentance. I know that by viewing repentance in this way, I feel much more whole as a person, and I feel like I’m actually making progress on becoming a better person.

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