Thanks for answering my other questions. I’ve been wondering about repentance. I have a sinful habit that I’ve been struggling to get rid of the past little while. I keep doing it again and again. Each time I do, I cry and confess it to God. I try not to go back to it but I always do. Are those tears of self-pity or godly sorrow? From what I understand, committing the same sin over and over again means I have not truly repented of it. I know I’m supposed to have a mighty change of heart but how? What am I missing? I’ve always felt like repentance is something that sounds good on paper, but never really understood it in real life. It might seem weird that after 20 years of going to church, I still don’t “get” something as basic as repentance, but nothing about it seems basic to me. Is it really possible to be washed completely of every sin? And how do I know when I’m clean? I am really struggling with this. I would appreciate your perspective.
Our prophets through the spirit of our Lord have described repentance as a “change of heart and mind.” How we once viewed and desired, we no longer desire nor view. This change of heart and mind is accomplished through our trust in the atonement of Jesus Christ — God’s grace.
Repentance is exercised when we first begin to exercise faith in God. Through our faith we recognize that God has a plan, his plan is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of his sons and daughters. We recognize that there are predicated laws by which we obtain any blessing in this life and in the life to come. As we exercise faith we begin to realize that our actions do not always conform to light and truth — the intelligence of God. When we recognize our actions do not conform we are then presented with a choice — either to forsake that which is contrary to the spirit, or to accept our flesh (the natural man).
Godly sorrow has been described by President Ezra Taft Benson,
“Godly sorrow is a gift of the Spirit. It is a deep realization that our actions have offended our Father and our God. It is the sharp and keen awareness that our behavior caused the Savior, He who knew no sin, even the greatest of all, to endure agony and suffering. Our sins caused Him to bleed at every pore.”
This godly sorrow leads the sons and daughters of God toward repentance — a change of heart and mind. As pertaining to whether or not you are experiencing godly sorrow, the question then you must ask yourself, “Is this sorrow leading to repentance, or despair”? If your sorrow is leading you to repentance then it is probably a good sign you are experiencing godly sorrow.
As you seek to repent of your habit another question you may ask yourself is, “Am I improving”? In other words, is the length of time longer between intervals of the habit? If I broke it one week, then repented, then the next time it was broken was it longer? It obviously is better for us to quit and never return, however should we return we should not give up. We should continue to do our best to confess and forsake, and also consult with our priesthood leaders, bishops and stake presidents (especially if the habit pertains to worthiness).
As pertaining to your last question about being clean, I would draw your mind to the last words given us by Moroni within the Book of Mormon and then ask yourself what it means to be “perfected in Christ,” and to become through the grace of Christ, “holy, without spot”?