More than just getting over the bad, repentance is about a restoration to the good
Sincere repentance is not about false shame or self-oppression. It is freedom from the entrapment and burdens caused by the consequences of bad behavior and negative interactions.
Getting caught in the act of sin or being burdened by sin's consequences are not motives for true repentance; however, these experiences may prompt us to better recognize his will. True repentance develops out of a desire to be whole, including the desire to express love to God by aligning our will with his.
Here are some tips to help you stay focused through the, sometimes hard, process of repentance and to notice some of its positive benefits:
Acknowledge what has been done (or not done)
When the scriptures say to confess, it means more than just telling those affected, God or a church leader about wrongdoing (or failing to do good). Confession also means acknowledging that God's way really is the best way and really does lead to happiness. God's will is not about oppressive rules, but includes protective factors that lead to good choices with good consequences and positive interactions with others.
Explore the impact of choices
One of the signs of maturation is understanding the connectedness we have with one another, including the impact of our choices on the world around us. Every choice we make has consequences, either positive or negative. Every interaction we have with others is an indicator about who we are choosing to become. We are responsible for our own behavior and interactions - regardless of what others do or external circumstances.
Emotionally respond to the impact
A soft heart is a heart that feels. An awake spirit is one that is aware. This can be challenging, especially in a society that is quick to numb out through external solutions that help us avoid feeling bad. We should feel bad when we make poor choices and we should feel sad about the hurt our poor choices cause others.
Humble ourselves enough to depend on God
Our spirits will stir to notice the distance poor choices or negative interactions causes between us and God. God is holy, and we are not yet. Our poor choices or negative interactions amplify this discrepancy. However, rather than despairing, we can humble ourselves and recognize this distance as evidence that we need God.
If we are truly humble and recognize that we need God, this confession will bring us full circle to align our will with His. This means that we must stop doing what was wrong, and choose to do what is right. It means choosing positive interactions regardless of the behavior of those around us. It means being more willing to do what is good and responding to promptings more quickly.
Making restitution means to find ways to make things right again. For example, if a person stole something, he or she must return it. Sometimes, like saying mean things, we simply cannot go back and undo what was wrong - but we can work hard at being very kind in the future. In some cases, it is not healthy or safe to return to a very old situation to try and make things right. The best thing to do in this situation is to find another way to make restitution through other means, such as volunteering with an agency or donating service to a related cause.
Repentance is provided as a process by which we may be restored as children of God. Feel the peace this brings and be thankful for it. Offer the same forgiveness to others when they need it and find ways to encourage peace-making in your family, workplace and community. Respect God and the process of repentance by not returning to old ways and more quickly asking Him for help when needed. Remember that repentance brings wholeness. This will help you make choices that are aligned with God's will, good for those around you, and good for you and who you want to become.
Repentance restores our wholeness as we become ourselves again. No longer at war with ourselves, internal congruence restores peace and confidence. Repentance brings us back into harmony with others and ultimately with God. It is God's mercy that forgives us through the repentance process, but it is God's grace that has provided repentance as part of his great plan of happiness.