Repentance: Why Do We Get Stuck?
Repentance is a nebulous word to modern ears. To repent literally means to turn. Specifically, to turn from your natural selfish inclinations to the way of God, the way of love and peace.
Of course, we tend to fail to act lovingly all the time. We all generally know what we should do in any situation, perhaps the opposite of our natural selfish instinct, but we don’t follow through. For example, the Bible is full of praise for giving generously to the poor or those in need.Â As much as we all support that principle, in practice we tend encounter difficulties acting on it. We don’t know why, but we just can’t do it. Why is this and how do we change it? There is a way that I have been practicing that few seem to be aware or do. You probably will never get instruction on this in church, but you might just get a glimpse of it from a top comedian.
The Profound Insight
I certainly was surprised when I heard a comedian describe this key to repentance in a recent interview. Watch the short clip below. It’s profoundly insightful (as well as humorous) when he tells of pulling over and sitting with negative thoughts:
Did you catch the insight and how it relates to repentance? In his anecdote, he gave a powerful example of a habit we all have. When we have negative feelings or thoughts about ourselves, we try to ignore it or distract ourselves from it. In his case, it was sadness from being reminded that he is alone and may always be alone or even die alone. For believers trying to do the right thing, when we fail we likewise feel bad about ourselves. We may feel ashamed, hypocritical, ugly or guilty of not doing God’s will.
What most of have learned to do to handle these unpleasant feelings is to try to put them out of our minds. In our modern, connected world, it is incredibly easy to distract ourselves and not feel these thoughts. We can reach out to a friend through the phone like Louis CK did, or through social media like Facebook. We can go exercise or watch a movie or program on demand. We can eat some comfort food or get a drink or even take a pill like a Xanax. Any number of other pleasures are able to help us forget about how rotten we are.
How to Overcome Our Blockages
But what if we do what Louis CK did and actually get ignore our fear or discomfort and stop and look at ourselves in our moment of selfishness? Then we might actually be able to discover why we failed and fix it.
Going back to the example above where of not giving to someone in need, with a little repeated introspection we may discover that:
- We hold some prejudices against giving to the poor from a upbringing showing us how to be hardworking and self-reliant (“if I can do it, why can’t they?”).
- We think the poor get that way only because they are lazy or not working hard enough.
- We assume that they otherwise must have brought the trouble on themselves or are even cursed by God and “deserve” it.
- We may be coming from a scarcity mentality that makes it hard for us to give to others because we feel we won’t have enough for ourselves later.
Once we get to the root belief system(s) behind our negative actions, we can work on questioning and changing that false value or false belief and replacing it with the proper true or loving belief. It may take some doing and petitioning in our prayer closet, but in time we will find that our actions align more and more with truth and love.
If you make it a habit to examine the beliefs behind all your selfish or fearful ways, you will be on your way to being called an overcomer (Rev 21:7 KJV) and producing much fruit (John 15:5).