Repentance has a bad reputation. For a long time, thinking of repentance brought up images of crazy people insisting the world was ending imminently, confessions of sins, guilt and other extremely negative ideas. Add on top of this that Christ explicitly tells his followers to call people to repentance as one of his final acts in the New Testament, and you get to add guilt for not telling people to repent to the list of negatives.
However, lately I’ve begun to think of repentance differently, all thanks to one simple idea. That idea was the realization that the importance of repentance comes not from the guilt nor even the forgiveness, but rather from it’s utility in promoting positive changes in our lives. This leads one to conclude that the main process for accomplishing repentance is to choose to make positive changes — to try to be a better person. When I changed my perspective in this way, the negativity associated with guilt was swept away, replaced by the recognition that we are always falling short of our divine potential, and can make incremental changes constantly in an effort to become better people. The awesome part about this is that whenever we are trying to do what we believe is right, and are trying to become better, His forgiveness makes it possible for us to push forward without the baggage of guilt for the past.
As I began thinking of repentance this way, I realized that although there may be occasions when a more formal confession-forgiveness type of repentance event is necessary, more often than not, what is required is an attitude of repentance — a penitent perspective. Again, though, it is important to slough the the negative connotations from those words and our attitudes. We might regret or be frustrated by our blunders and imperfections, but the key purpose of those emotions should be motivation to continue to try to be better.
The Atonement provided by our Savior makes it possible for us to be forgiven of our sins if we repent. That doesn’t mean we have to be perfect after repenting. That means if we are constantly repenting and trying to be more perfect, even while knowing that we will never be perfect through our own efforts, that brief periods of perfection can be attainable, as the history of our mistakes is washed clean through the grace of the Atonement. Perhaps rather than aiming to be perfect, we should aim to repent faster than we sin.
The peace available through the Gospel comes from knowing that we are reconciled to God and that all will be well in the end. Learning to live habitually repentant can help us have this peace more often, regardless of the chaos swirling around us.
Repent! It’s awesome!
I’m really not one to diet, but even if I were, I would not go for a cleanse or detox diet, as it is just way to extreme for me. However, the concept of the cleanse diet became useful to me recently.
Life is messy. We all make mistakes. We all have vices and weaknesses. Sometimes we just get into a little rut that is out of character with who we are regularly, or who we want to be. I got into just such a rut recently. It occurred to me that a spiritual “cleanse” – the spiritual equivalent of these diets – might be just what I needed to snap myself out of it.
The general idea of the diets are centered around cleansing all of the toxins out of your body by eating or drinking ONLY a particular food or beverage for a period of days. For my spiritual cleanse, I decided I needed to identify several things that I really wanted to do more consistently, and several things to avoid. I would do my best to stick to this plan for 7 days. Here was my list:
- Church callings
- To bed by 11pm
- Read Book of Mormon
- Aimless web-browsing
- TV (except w/ family)
- Video games (except w/ family)
My main concern was to avoid idle diversions, but I also wanted to apply that time toward things that uplifted me. I needed to pull myself out of the rut I was in and determined this was how I was going to try to make that happen.
And it totally worked. I didn’t even hit all of my goals consistently, but I hit enough of them to keep me focused on the attempt. It got me out of the rut, and helped me improve incrementally beyond that. I didn’t get as much done from the “Do” list as I would have liked, but that was a secondary purpose anyway.
This process came to me in answer to a sincere, repentant prayer. I can’t tell you if this will help you with any rut you’re struggling to get out of, but I can tell you the principles are in-line with the Gospel, and that it worked for me in this situation. Our Savior wants to help us, but we need to do the work we can do in order to metaphorically take the offered hand.
I am truly grateful for the forgiveness available through our Savior’s atonement. Because of it, my rut was only a bump on my road, and not a wrong turn, and I can keep my focus on the road ahead.