In my last message I tried to shed some new light on the old concept of sin and repentance. In this related message I will try to shed some new light on the repentance process. This message will be a little longer than most because I want to do it justice.
The five principles of the repentance process are:
- Awareness (of what you are really seeking)
1) Awareness of What You Are Really Seeking
First there must be an awareness that what you are doing or have done is wrong- not because the underlying desire that motivated the action is wrong, but because the choice you made was a wrong application of a true and good desire and therefore it has and will continue to bring you (and likely others around you) unwanted consequences.
If you look deeply enough at what motivated you to do whatever it is you want to repent for, you will find the kernel of truth involved. The kernel of truth is that behind every sin there is always a seeking (of the personality) for greater security, joy, freedom, acceptance, or power. That seeking is not the problem- that is what we are here to do- to have joy, to be free, to let love flow from within us towards others and towards God and to be instruments of and expressions of God’s ultimate power of creation.
The problem comes in seeking for it where it can’t be found- which is anywhere outside of our Soul, which is to say anywhere outside of God within us (also referred to in the Bible as The Kingdom of Heaven). The truth is that everything we desire as human beings- all the love, all the freedom, all the joy, all the power, all the acceptance- it is all available within us from our Soul. Of course just because it is within us doesn’t mean it’s easy to find. It requires earnest and diligent seeking. It requires discernment between truth and error and the discipline to choose truth and reject error in our daily living. But until we learn otherwise, our personality’s seeking nature is looking in all the wrong places- it is looking outside- and ultimately all such efforts are “sin” because they are the wrong application of truth- the seeking for truth where it cannot be found.
Questions to Ponder: Awareness of What You Are Really Seeking
- Think of something you feel guilt over. When you get to the core of what motivated that action, what good thing was it you were really seeking, but in the wrong way? Security, Freedom, Acceptance, Creative Expression, Personal Power?
- Can you see that you were seeking for something good where it cannot be found and THAT is what you need to repent of if you want to find what you are really seeking?
With the awareness of the wrong application of a right desire, the next step is to allow yourself to become humble and teachable. Remember the personality is all about self-preservation, that’s its job. And unless it is trained otherwise, it does its job by self-justifying- by deflecting blame to someone else or some other cause. “I’m a good person, therefore anything that threatens my feeling like a good person must be attacked.” It creates things like pride and blame and embarrassment as walls that keep us from correcting course- that keep us from turning our attention from seeking the Kingdom of Heaven without (wrong use) to seeking it within (right use). Until we can come to this point of humility and desire to begin seeking within what we have mistakenly been seeking without, we will stop ourselves from doing what needs to be done. We will continue to avoid what should be done and to do what should be avoided.
This is the trap of pride. It’s like the squirrel trap- the squirrel sticks its hand in the small hole to grab the nut inside, but then can’t get its hand out of the hole because the clenched fist is too big. But instead of dropping the nut, the squirrel refuses to let go and remains trapped. Don’t be like the squirrel- be humble enough to let go of the nut (seeking for the kingdom of heaven without) and get out of the trap (disappointment and suffering).
Questions to Ponder: Humility
- Can you see one area in your life where your personality has been seeking in the world outside the Soul what can only be found within the Soul?
- In what ways does your personality try to justify itself by blaming anything or anyone outside of itself?
This step is much easier to do if we’ve first gone through steps 1 and 2, and it is very difficult to do and ultimately ineffective even if we do pull it off, if we haven’t first gone through steps 1 and 2. Confession is nothing more than a humble admitting that we’ve been seeking for the right things in all the wrong places.
This is the part where your religious practice often comes into play. Some religions have formal confession procedures to priests or bishops. Some have group confessionals, some are individual. If prescribed religious observances need to be made, then make them. But do it with a much deeper awareness and even gratitude for your increased understanding and clarity of the principles underlying the procedures. If you don’t have a religious practice to follow, confess to God in prayer, or confess to the person you affected, or to a good friend, or to your own Soul.
Questions to Ponder: Confession
- Where can you see you’ve been seeking for the right things in the wrong places?
- With this awareness, is it really a big deal to admit (confess) that you now see what you didn’t really see before?
Depending upon the situation, there may or may not be other people that have had to experience some negative consequences of your seeking wrongly (sin). If there are things that can be done to restore to others what they’ve lost as a result of your actions, then doing what is within your power to restore them is a natural part of the true repentance process. If money needs to be repaid, then make an agreement to repay it. If apologies need to be made, then make them.
But more often than not, it’s not that simple. Direct restitution is usually not a real option. But whether or not direct restitution is possible- here’s a powerful and true principle to remember:
The real restitution comes through offering the world a better version of you.
As you change from seeking what’s right in the wrong way towards seeking it in the right way, you benefit all you come in contact with- not just yourself. You lift and inspire others, you raise your frequency of attraction, you raise your perceived self-worth and you start attracting and receiving more of life’s blessings which you can then share with those around you.
So if you can’t take back angry words from someone who has since died, your restitution is in becoming an example for others of patience and compassion. If you can’t take back hurt feelings or a damaged reputation you may have contributed to, your restitution is in becoming an example for others of someone who uses their words only to uplift and encourage.
If you feel you have a debt to repay in some way, then pay it back in kindness to others, not by punishing yourself. Never again waste energy punishing yourself- it isn’t necessary, it isn’t helpful to you or anyone else. It never has been and it never will be.
Questions to Ponder: Restitution
- How is anyone helped (including you) by punishing yourself?
- How can you make true restoration for your past mistakes of seeking wrongly? How can you now be an example of seeking rightly?
Many people have a hard time forgiving themselves of their past mistakes and sins. The biggest reason for this is that they have probably not gone through the full repentance process as we’ve just covered. With incomplete repentance, the personality and Soul are still out of alignment. But once we’ve gone through the process our sense of self-worth will expand. Why? Because now our personality and Soul are in alignment.
Of course you will still remember your past mistaken choices, but now it will be more like a painless scar instead of an open wound that keeps getting salt rubbed in it. When you can look back at your past mistakes and sins with a humble feeling of gratitude for the lessons you’ve learned because of them, and with an expanded clarity and understanding that you now have as a result of trying and learning, you’ll have reached the state of self-forgiveness that will allow you to release the brakes and move forward.
Here is one of my favorite quotes about self-forgiveness:
“What if I should discover that I stand in need of the alms of my own kindness; that I myself am the enemy who must be loved—what then?”
— Carl Jung
Of all the people that deserve our kindness- the kindness that is inherently part of the Soul, we ourselves (our personalities) deserve it. Our personality out of alignment with our Soul is in fact the enemy of our true happiness and is the enemy that must be loved.
Questions to Ponder: Self-Forgiveness
- Are there things in your past that you haven’t been able to forgive yourself for? Why not?
- After going through all five steps of “true repentance” can you now finally forgive yourself?