Wednesday, June 3, 2015
Repentance isn't about tearing yourself down
My daughter texted me the other day, upset. She slept in, was late for school, and missed a class. Then she got a poor grade on a test she should have aced. Here's a part of our text conversation:
DAUGHTER: "I would've done better if I wasn't such a moron. I didn't set the alarm and missed my class. Now I've disappointed you and dad, and missed the chance to review the stuff from the test in class and did stinking poorly."
Now, I'm really good at negative self-talk. I try to avoid it when all possible, but it's a skill I have in my arsenal. Apparently my daughter does, too. Emotional genetics, I suppose. But I don't like my daughter talking bad about or to herself. Hence my response:
ME: "No negative self talk. Repentance isn't about tearing yourself down. It's about lifting yourself up. Take this learning opportunity and use it to be just a little bit better. Then move forward with joy."
I often have no idea what to say to my teenage daughter. I also often say the wrong things. But that, right there, was the right thing at the right time. I know it's right, because after I sent it to her I reread it, and the truth of what I wrote settle into the nooks of my heart. I realized that it applied not just to her, but to me as well. To all of us.
We all make mistakes. We all screw up. We can't help it. Sure, we can help how much, but no matter how hard we try, we will not be perfect. We take the stick of false expectations and beat ourselves up, and even condemn ourselves, for making mistakes. Many of our mistakes are avoidable, yes. And some are just stupid. But, as in all mistakes, that's when repentance comes in.
I don't believe repentance is supposed to be a process of tearing ourselves apart. It really is about lifting ourselves up. Jesus Christ already suffered for us. Of course we must feel Godly sorrow for our sins. Godly sorrow brings about a broken heart and contrite Spirit. (Psalms 34:18). But, self-defacing, unforgiving, and sometimes damning attitudes we take towards ourselves do not belong in real repentance.
Repentance is about recognizing what God wants for us, understanding our responsibility to improve, and the mercy and blessing it is to have a Savior who has already paid the price of our sins. Are these not things to rejoice in?
Of course we're gonna mess things up. That's what we do. We trip and fall. We make bad choices. But, when our eyes are focused (as well as they can) on doing His will, we might fall but we will never fail. Repentance, through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, can lift us up again.
Repentance isn't a rehashing of our shortcomings and imperfections. It's the acknowledgment of the perfect mercy of our Savior.
Repentance isn't an exercise of self-abuse. It's the gift of self-forgiveness.
Repentance isn't prison, It's freedom. It's not hateful. It's loving. It's not selfish. It's selfless. It's not punishment. It's a gift.
So, when you mess up, and you totally will, remember this: Repentance isn't about tearing yourself down. It's about lifting yourself up. Learn from your mistakes. Be just a little better next time. And move forward with joy.