In recent times I've been giving more and more thought about the concept of repentence. What does it mean, and how do we repent?
Today I had two times of realizing that I needed to repent.
On one time I went to the chiropractor. I had thrown my back out a week ago. While it had gotten better, it still wasn't back to normal. I finally went to the chiropractor today. While I was in his examining room, I had made a comment that in the past I had found that "If I didn't go to the chiropractor, my back would hurt for half a week. But if I did go to a chiropractor, my back would only hurt for 3 or 4 days." The message is that going to a chiropractor didn't help at all.
After I left his office I realized that I had said that same thing to him before. It was a rude thing to say. I shouldn't have said it. I went back to him and apologized.
Later I went to the hardware store. When I was ready to check out I went up to the cashier. After she had rung up my purchase, while we were waiting for the cash register to activate the electronic signing device, she said, "It'll be about 15 seconds." I immediatly started counting to myself. When the device was finally ready I said, "22 seconds". I've done this before in this hardware store. Today it finally dawn on me, what I did is wrong. That is my pride of wanting to prove them wrong. I need to change that. This time I didn't go back in, but just thought about and rehearsed a new response. In the future when the cashier says, "It'll be about 15 seconds", I will just say something like "Thank you."
Repentence is not an event (something that we can do oece and then forget about it), but rather an ongoing process, a change in our life's thought patterns and behaviors. It's:
- An awareness that one's thinking processes and behavior patterns are wrong
- A decision to make changes and to live differently.
- An ongoing process of continuously monitoring and examining one's own thinking and behavior
- Making corrections as necessary. Sometimes the correction will be going back in one's mind, examining what one did wrong, clarifying how one should have thought and acten and then rehearsing how one should have acted.
- Whenever appropriate or necessary, going back and apologizing and say that "I was wrong" and making amends, as appropriate.
It's not just having to repent of doing the big things wrong. It also includes those tiny seemingly insignificant things (i.e. judging & condemning people in our minds, thinking or saying cutting words about others)
To help others out of being critical or condeming of others, we can't do it by being condemning of them. We have to get those characteristics out of our lives before we can have a meaningful impact on others.
I'm not convinced that we should ask for forgiveness. Asking for forgiveness is often used as an end in itself. The subtle implication can be, "If I'm forgiven, then all is well. It is done and finished." In reality, it is more important that we change our thinking and change or behaviour permanently. Then a forgiveness for our inappropriate behavior will naturally flow out of others. The forgiveness may not even be realized by the previously offended party because they will see us acting differently and therefore will respond to us differently.