What is a contrite spirit and a broken heart?
Within the Law of Sacrifice and during the repentance process for a specific transgreee, how will I know when I have a sufficient contrite spirit and broken heart?
When the scriptures mention a broken heart and a contrite spirit, what is being discussed is our approach to the process of repentance itself.
Repentance is usually understood as meaning ‘to give up, or stop sinning’. The more accurate term is ‘to turn away from’ something. Said another way, merely stopping the desire/action is not enough, but to fully remove one’s self from even approaching it. When we repent we remove that evil from our lives as fully as possible.
The broken heart is the first step because we must feel true sorrow for our sin. When we sin, we usually harm somebody, even if it’s just ourselves. However if we pause to consider how Christ views us, if we try to understand how much love He has for each one of us, the sorrow we must be causing Him due to our sins must be immense and very deep. Thus even in harming ourselves alone, Christ feels Godly sorrow for what we’ve done. A broken heart is our part in acknowledging, and experiencing some of that sorrow for ourselves and others we may have hurt.
Another way of saying this is that we are sorry for the wrong we have committed, not merely sorry that what we did was wrong, or that we got caught in a sin.
The contrite spirit reflects the necessary attitude in correcting the consequences of the sin. We must be willing to submit to any requirements of the repentance process. Contrite means humble, meek, and submissive. In order to fulfill this, pride must be removed, and we must not make excuses for our actions. It is a time of accepting accountability for our choices, and requires a willingness to make amends as far as possible.
A popular example would be an aircraft trying to follow a given course as it flies through the air. In theory, the course is one specific straight path. However, even the best pilot cannot maintain a perfect flight path. Everything from wind direction, to conditions of the aircraft itself will impose small changes to where the aircraft is headed. Because of this, the pilot is constantly correcting for this and gently ‘steering’ the plane thorugh the air. Even autopilot programs must do this, though they are far more accurate.
When a pilot realizes he is off course, it is similar to committing a sin. The plane is not headed where it should be, and unless a change in direction is made, it will not arrive where it plans to be. In order to get back on course, the pilot must;
1)recognize that he is off course and realize he needs to correct for it. This is analagous to having a broken heart.
2)make the changes in direction needed to re-gain the correct heading. This is analagous to having a contrite spirit.
The glorious gift of repentance includes this and the promise that when we do repent properly and fully, the sin is forgotten, and all is possible because of the Atonement of Christ. How wonderful a blessing it is for us all.