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Four Things That Keep Me from Repenting Properly. By Celeste Davis.

By Celeste Davis

I’m a big believer in repentance. I’ve had too many experiences with its refreshing, guilt-freeing power to deny that it is totally worth the effort it takes.

But I've realized there are many things that keep me from accessing this redemptive power when I screw up, which is a real shame. So in the spirit of encouragement, I’ll share with you four things that keep me from repenting properly:

1. Thinking it needs to be a huge, long process.

For me, with my everyday screwups, thinking about repenting as a huge process often keeps me from repenting at all. My little sins don’t seem big enough to merit such a monumental effort, or else I don’t start the process because I don’t have the time (or energy) to give repenting due attention.

Elder Holland answers this conundrum perfectly. He says, "You can change anything you want to change, and you can do it very fast. That’s another satanic sucker punch—that it takes years and years and eons of eternity to repent. It takes exactly as long to repent as it takes you to say, ‘I’ll change’—and mean it."

It takes exactly as long to repent as it takes you to say "I'll change" and mean it. ~Jeffrey R. Holland

That one sentence has revolutionized how I think about repentance: repentance means saying "I'll change” and meaning it. I think about that all the time. All I have to do is maintain the mentality "I will change"—and then make a plan to do it.

2. Not having a regularly scheduled time to repent.

Up until this past year I never scheduled a time for myself to reflect and repent. What resulted was that I only repented when I felt really, really bad about something. Then I would procrastinate repenting because I felt too bad about it.

I didn't repent very often.

I decided I needed time for a weekly personal inventory. I've been trying to get up before my kids on Sunday (I'm not always successful, but I try) so I have time to pray and reflect on my week. I ask myself four questions:

  1. What are my regrets about this past week?
  2. How did I feel Christ's power last week?
  3. How did I keep promises to Him?
  4. How will I keep my promises to Him this week?

I write down the answers and then have a good praying session and repent of those things I regretted, thank God for the times I felt His power, and ask for help in keeping my covenants. This has revolutionized the sacrament experience for me. It's head-scratching to me why it's taken me 30 years to actually prepare for the sacrament, because it's made such a huge difference in my relationship with the Savior and His Atonement.

This idea may not work for you. But I think it is important to schedule a time to regularly take stock of your week and repent where necessary.

3. Finding the right kind and right amount of guilt.

This one is a tough one for me, and it's definitely something that keeps me from repenting properly. I feel like I'm always struggling to know how to find the right amount of guilt. Often I think I either overshoot with too much guilt or undershoot with not enough.

If I mess up and don’t repent quickly, I can start to dwell on it. "I messed up again? I'm the worst!" But if I don’t really think about it, did I feel badly enough about my mistakes? How should we feel while repenting? How should “a broken heart and contrite spirit” feel exactly? How can I feel bad while not being overwhelmed with discouragement?

Ultimately we can know we are on the right track with our guilt by its fruits: if feeling bad leads us to repentance, and then the guilt stops and is replaced with hope and gratitude, we successfully felt the right kind of guilt. But if feeling too bad or guilty keeps us from repenting, or we do everything to repent but still feel guilty? That is the wrong kind and the wrong amount of guilt.

You'll know it by its fruits.

4. Not believing I can really be forgiven when I make the same mistakes over and over.

On my mission there was a time where I felt like I kept repeating the same mistakes over and over again and I couldn’t overcome the situation. They were little things, but I couldn’t seem to overcome them. Every day I was resigned to change, and then every night in my nightly prayers I would find myself needing to repent of these same things. Night after night, same thing.

It was so discouraging.

I thought obviously I’m not doing this repentance thing right because I’m not forsaking the sin. One night, I was so discouraged. I knew I had failed yet again and needed to kneel down and repent yet again. But I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I thought, “Why would God want to hear from me again? To hear the same apology and repentance attempt night after night?” And then the thought came very clearly to my mind: “He wants to hear from you because you are His daughter.”

He will never tire of hearing from you. He’ll always want to hear from me, especially in my moments of weakness and need. He will always be on my side and ready to offer His hand of forgiveness as many times as I need it. Because He loves me, He’s rooting for me. He is my Father.

Repentance means forever fresh starts.

Repentance means forever fresh starts, as many times as we need them. We can change as many times as we can say, “I will change” and mean it.

And God will be there ready to forgive us, His children.


Celeste loves dishing out unsolicited marriage advice over at A Thing Called Love Blog. Mom of three, wife of one, she's a big believer in the power of redemption, the power of kindness, and the power of Netflix. Also cheese.

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