by Dr. Lawrence Wilson
© May 2013, L.D. Wilson Consultants, Inc.
All information in this article is for educational purposes only. It is not for the diagnosis, treatment, prescription or cure of any disease or health condition.
Repentance is a most interesting word, and a very helpful concept for your spiritual or mental development. The word is found throughout the Hebrew and Christian bibles, but it is not used very much in general conversation.
It is also not popular in modern psychology, for example. This is a shame, because the idea is so useful and helpful. Repentance or repenting is actually a very important psychological and spiritual process that everyone needs to understand and practice.
Words that are used to describe it include remorseful, contrite, ashamed, willing to atone, and others. None of these ideas are popular, but they do convey the meaning fairly well. Let us examine repentance in more detail.
The verb to repent means to engage in a special mental process for the purpose of making a permanent improvement, or progress, in one’s life path. It is not necessarily about ending a vile “sin”, in the biblical sense of the word. It could be about eating a better diet, or perhaps learning not to exaggerate a little when you speak with people. It could be about shifting anything – an attitude or thought, a habit or a behavior - that needs changing to fulfill your responsibilities to your higher self and to your Creator.
The noun repentance means to feel badly about your past in some way, and to begin to move in a healthier or more wholesome direction. The word repentance is related to the words penitence and penitentiary. Jails are sometimes called penitentiaries, meaning a place where one goes to make penitence, or to repent. In other words, it is a place to feel badly about something you have done, and then to go through the repentance process in order to change and improve oneself in some way or fashion.
WHY IS REPENTANCE IMPORTANT?
Many people think that it is enough to say “I am sorry” if they do something that is less than totally honest or forthright. While this may make one feel better, and assuage the guilt or other feelings, often this does not result in much maturing or change in a person’s future thoughts or behavior. Just saying one is sorry is too easy; it can be little more than a mechanical and learned response that carries little deeper meaning.
In other words, without going through the repentance process, a person does not really understand what he or she has done that is problematic, and one may not really feel very badly or sorry about it. As a result, efforts to mature and change, if there are any, tend to be limited, and often are not successful.
This is an important principle, in fact. Unless one figures out what was done wrong, deeply, in the heart, real change and maturing is difficult or impossible. One can say, “I will do better next time”. However, one will not necessarily be prepared to do this unless clear about what was done incorrectly, how to initiate a deep intent to change for the better, and the willingness to make a sincere effort to follow through with this intention. Actually, a little more even than this is required for repentance, as explained below.
THE STEPS TO REPENTING
Here are the basic steps:
Step 1. Understand clearly what you did, how you behaved, or how you spoke or acted. This is often not easy for some who are ill, tired, or who see things in a jaded, confused, incomplete or lying fashion. This step must be done without judgment of either yourself or others. In other words, it needs to be pure and clear observation at this step.
As part of this, you must recognize or understand, at least partially, the effects of your action or speech upon yourself and upon others, and even upon nature or other beings. This step is basically about increasing your awareness of your past thinking or actions without making excuses for it, condemning it or judging yourself or others in any way.
How to increase your awareness of the problem. It if often difficult to see our own thinking process and behaviors for what they really are. Methods that can help include:
1. A good friend or partner may help, but only if the other wants to tell you the truth and is patient with you, and if you are willing to listen and take heed.
2. Pray often and ask God or the angels for guidance. When you do this, life has a way of showing you what you need to do, even if it is painful at times.
3. Affirm how you wish to be and how you wish to think about things. Some prayers are helpful for this, or perhaps reading or listening to spiritual material can help you to affirm what you want.
4. Obtain professional counseling, attend group therapy or join a support group that discusses your issue.
5. Read and study articles about the thoughts or behavior you wish to change. This website offers quite a few, for example. You can also listen to audio material or watch video programs about the subject or behavior you wish to change in order to inform yourself fully and begin to reprogram and deprogram the mind.
6. Do the Roy Masters meditation exercise a lot, and do not waste time on other, feel-good meditations, for example. The Roy exercise is an awareness and concentration exercise that helps one to observe the mind calmly, without judging anything. This is a powerful way to learn about yourself and your behaviors that is often easier than listening to the advice of others, for example. This exercise can be done in the privacy of your home and it will slowly and gently reveal hidden thoughts, hidden emotions, and much more for you to observe, process in some cases, and then dismiss when you have completed the process. For more on this topic read Meditation For Healing on this website.
7. Other ways to bring up hidden traumas, hidden motives and hidden emotions include following a nutritional balancing program carefully, and perhaps other therapies such as bodywork or deep massage, in some cases, chiropractic, colon cleansing, deep breathing and more.
Step 2. Once you have a clear understanding of what you have done or said or thought, then you must conclude or realize that your thoughts, words or deeds were less than ideal, and why. This is really a two-part step. First, you must see that they were less than ideal, and second, you must learn why.
Thoughts, speech or actions are usually less than ideal if they physically or emotionally harm someone else, if they confuse others, if they waste others’ time, energy or money, or if they do this to oneself.
Specific ways in which your actions may harm yourself or others are because the thoughts, words or actions may be selfish, malicious, devious, stupid, dangerous, insane, cruel, frivolous, fraudulent, lying, inciting to violence, or confusing for oneself or for another.
3. When this is understood fully, you must feel badly or very sorry about the whole thing. This is a very special quality of mind, and this is the hardest step for many people. It is at the heart of the repentance process and needs to be explained carefully to avoid the following extremes.
Some people just “blow off” the problem by saying or thinking, “I’m just human, no one’s perfect, and it’s not that bad, anyway.” One may go on to blame one’s parents, teachers, poverty, bad health, traumas, the government, religion, or something else.
The opposite response is not correct either. Some people move into heavy guilt, deciding they are such a sinner and liar, perhaps, that there is no hope.
Another wrong response is to become angry at yourself and others for the problem, or to feel depressed and ashamed about the situation, although a little of this is necessary.
Feeling badly is really about realizing that you can do better, that you have the courage, wisdom and intelligence to do better, but you did not use these and chose differently. You allowed “lower forces”, perhaps, to influence you instead of standing up for principle and doing the right thing in the situation. This you must accept and desire to avoid in the future. This is all this step is, at its most basic level.
A more religious way to view this, which is not necessary, is that you are a God-centered being (which you are even if you don’t believe it), but your thinking and/or behavior were not at the highest possible “god” level on this occasion.
At an energetic level, repentance is a change of direction of the mind. This is often a key to success. I will explain.
Wrong thought or action is a reversal of the true, the holy and the beautiful. It is like taking a wrong turn on the path of life. Repentance is turning around on the path and moving in the opposite direction firmly and clearly, with no intent, desire or interest in ever going back to the old ways of thought, speech or behavior.
Repentance, especially this step of it, is a reversal of a reversal, or a negation of negation, which takes you back toward positivity, sanity and truth.
Compassion for yourself and repentance. This step, in particular, requires a lot of compassion and love for yourself. You need to see what you did incorrectly or wrongly, but you must continue to love yourself through the process of repentance or it will stall, often at this step. Through this step in repentance, you will learn this compassion for yourself or self-loving quality. In fact, it is one of the great benefits of going through the process of repentance.
4. Develop a desire and intention to change your behavior, attitudes or whatever needs changing. In order to change, one must develop a sincere desire to do so. This must accompany your new awareness of the problem or item that needs changing.
The problem of inertia. Developing a strong desire for something is often not easy because we all have a certain inertia that keeps us moving in the old direction, no matter what we say we want. This inertia is powerful because it involves the brain, the nervous system, the chemistry of the body itself, the structure of the body, the family and friends around you and in fact, much more than this.
It might include the books you read, the music you listen to, even the house you live in and the car you drive. All of these act as props, so to speak, that can keep you from changing your ways. It is thus important to understand the idea of inertia or momentum in your life and the need to work hard, at first, and maybe for a while, to overcome it.
Once you have set in motion new habits, new behaviors and new thinking patterns, this inertia lessens to a degree and the new path becomes far easier. However, it can be quite difficult for a while. Following a nutritional balancing program to increase your biochemical energy production can be a great help with this, because it may take some energy to overcome your inertia and change your direction in life. For more on this subject, read the article entitled Inertia And How To Overcome It.
The same methods above that you used to increase your awareness can be used to continue to motivate and increase your desire to be different in whatever way you choose.
Sadness helpful at this stage of repentance. To help you develop a strong desire to change, it is helpful to feel sadness, regret or contrition about your past to some degree. Guilt is not helpful, except in some cases, but a certain sadness about missing the mark or sinning, as it is called in the bible, is most helpful. In fact, it is a central part of the process of repentance. If there is no sadness and contrition, then repentance is not complete and usually the change that is needed will not occur fully.
5. To fully implement your new desire, you must take positive action and sustain it. The next step in repentance is to begin life anew, so to speak, or make the changes you desire and intend to make. This is an action step. It, too, is an essential part of the repentance process. It is not enough just to study the truth, or to feel sad about your past behaviors or thoughts. You must also take action in a new direction.
The need for discipline. Learning discipline is critical in this stage of repentance. The word intention means a disciplined and sustained desire. Self-discipline is required to sustain your desire and your new actions in the new direction you want to go, even when things become difficult or discouraging. This is one reason for sticking with a healthful diet and doing the Roy Masters meditation, for example, even if you don’t like them. They teach discipline and they are actions that change your life. The discipline itself is a wonderful benefit. The discipline you learn can be applied to any project or area of your life, and you become a more powerful and more effective in every area of life.
The word discipline. The word discipline is related to the word disciple. It does not exactly mean just forcing or pushing yourself to do something. It is more about becoming a disciple of the truth, and subordinating the old ego or lower will to something greater and more wonderful. It is truly about developing the soul to overcome the inertia of the body and of the past thoughts, words and deeds.
Your new action must be strong and direct, and it must be sustained in order for it to take hold in your mind and body, and finally in every area of your life. In this sense, a whole systems change must occur for repentance to be complete. It may mean new friends, a new lifestyle, different books and videos to listen to, and much more. The entire body and mind must be inclined or shifted to support your new lifestyle.
6. Surrender into your new way of living. This is the final positive outcome of repentance. It means that you understand at a deep level that living differently will have consequences, and you are ready to allow, accept and surrender to your new life.
For example, if you change your diet, or perhaps give up alcohol, cigarettes or loose sex, you may lose some friends. You might even alienate your family. You may have to change your church, or your job. It might cost you money, and it may cause other stress as well. However, you are willing to allow, accept and surrender yourself anyway, because you know it is for the best. Therefore, you are willing to go through whatever are the consequences of thinking and acting differently.
This is another difficult step for some people. They understand what they did, and they want to do the right thing in the future. However, they do not want to suffer the consequences of real change, or they may weaken and succumb to family or other pressures that take them back into their old ways.
Here are suggestions to help with this step:
1. Faith in God really helps. This is one of the big secrets of the 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous, for example.
2. Do your best to surround yourself with new friends, new activities and new media that believe as you wish to, and support your new way of living. For example, keep reading this website and similar material that supports your new lifestyle and way of living.
3. In fact, anything that is helpful, even if it seems very gimmicky, should and often must be used, at times, to help you to surrender fully into your new way of being and living. I call this your “toolkit”, which must be used often, at first, in particular, to support you and keep you on track.
4. You will need to adopt an attitude of “letting the cards fall as they may”. This is very difficult for some people, so do not feel frustrated or discouraged if you feel the pain of letting go of some people, places, things, or whatever was part of your former lifestyle. This is true of all the steps above, but particularly this one. All great people who have accomplished great things have had to go through this process of repentance and change, and have faced the same obstacles. So know that you are in good company when the old forces come against you and you feel lonely, misunderstood or unloved by your old friends and perhaps family members as well. This is the challenge of this step in the repentance process.
5. Stay on your nutritional balancing program, as it will keep rocketing you forward. It will support the body and the brain, and build character in mysterious ways.
6. Know that there is light at the end of the tunnel! This is based on my experience, as well as that of many others.
7. If you are even a little religious, understand that the world is controlled by evil forces. You are deciding to oppose them, and they fill try to get you back in line, so to speak. Know this will happen, and they will try to trip you up. Just persist, knowing that you do not have to live by their decrees, but you will have to fight your way out, especially at first. This is sometimes called developing the warrior mentality. This is a powerful concept. To learn more about it, read The Warrior’s Creed and The Path Of The Warrior on this website.
CONCLUSION – THE MANY BENEFITS OF REPENTING
Real fun, excitement, real love, love of self, necessary to love others deeply, courage, warrior qualities, patience, forgiveness, persistence, etc., accomplishment, safety and better judgment and better decisions, better health and longer life.
The main benefit and need for truly repenting is that when you go through the steps above, which you will have to do many times in your life in order to live properly in most cases, you are truly through with your past performance, behaviors and speech. You will also be off in a new direction, and in most cases, if you do it correctly, you will not be tempted to go back to the old ways. This is the main benefit.
You will also be a wiser person, a more mature person, a more self-reflective person and a deeper or more profound thinker. These are just a few of the wonderful benefits of going through the process of repentance over and over again, without anger, fear, too much guilt or too much hesitation.