I was never good at doing teshuva (repentance), well at least not in the way I understood it.
Rambam (Maimonides) taught there are four steps one must take in order to do proper teshuva.
- Regret: Feeling bad about the wrongdoing.
- Cessation: Stop doing the sin.
- Confession: Articulating the sin and asking for forgiveness.
- Resolution: Making a commitment not to repeat the offense in the future.
Very often I could not get past the first step. I not only felt remorse but wallowed in it. I mean isn’t that in our DNA? Good old fashioned Jewish guilt. It came naturally and it seemed to me that according to the Rambam it was even a mitzvah.
The guilt was so overwhelming, it made confession too painful. The truth is I did not trust myself to move on to the next steps of teshuva. I held on tightly to that scarlet letter. I had to…
I did not realize that in doing so I caused myself so much anguish that it spilled over to my loved ones. Every shame walk I took trampled on potential growth and beauty that letting go would have embraced. I paid a hefty price until I finally realized where I went wrong. I was not regretting the sin as I believed I had been doing. I was regretting that I was that person who committed the sin.
I am above that.
I know better.
I am not the type of person to do those things.
I did do those things
so maybe I am that person.
I’m a sinner.
It was an ego trip the entire time as I was focusing on myself and not the sin.
Regret should be solely for the sin itself. The act is wrong and should not have been done. I must regret having done something wrong but not identify and equate myself with the sin. In doing so I let the sin live on in me and continue to do harm in countless other ways. I sinned but I am not a sinner. Period. It is much easier to repair something when only a small part is broken. In today’s day and age that is increasingly more difficult. People get called out on everything they do and then get labeled. It’s an easy trap to fall into and I refuse to walk into it any more.
I feel liberated and free. I know I have a piece of God in me that is infinite and more powerful than any one sin. I am empowered and I can move on. In fact, admitting the sin automatically lifts me above it. It might be unpleasant like taking out the trash but boy does it feel good to walk away from it into a clean house where the stench will no longer linger.