I entered the bishop’s office feeling completely worthless.
The bishop smiled and offered me a seat. I explained to him what had happened, feeling more and more ashamed with each word. I asked with tears in my eyes, “What do I need to do? How can I become completely clean again?”
The bishop was quiet for a moment, then said, “You can definitely become clean from this. But I don’t think you understand an important part of repentance.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, a little taken aback.
“You are thinking of repentance like you are flipping a switch from darkness to light,” he said. “As if you were a perfect 10, and because you sinned, you’re now an 8 or a 7.”
I nodded slowly.
“In reality,” the bishop continued, “none of us are 10s. In fact, we are probably closer to 1s and 2s. We’re not perfect to begin with. Repentance can cleanse us from sin, but it also helps us progress from 2s to 3s and 3s to 4s and so on until we reach that perfect 10 one day. Repentance helps us become more Christlike.”
The bishop prayed with me and advised me to study the gift of repentance.
When I left his office, I sat in my car for a long time, thinking about what he had said.
I realized that he was right. I had thought of repentance only as a way to get back to how I was, to become a 10 once more. Because I thought I was completely clean before, the weight of that “perfection” made me feel worthless and unredeemable—just as I always felt whenever I needed to repent.
But having to repent was not a negative or shameful experience—it was the crux of becoming Christlike. It allowed me to leave my sins behind and enabled me to become better than I was before. The Savior is not a repairman, filling in the cracks in my soul, but an architect, building me up to heights I could never achieve otherwise.
This knowledge removed my perfectionistic guilt. I wasn’t perfect and I didn’t have to be—not yet. Repentance was part of my path to perfection. I entered my home with a changed perspective and a humbled heart.
I have since repented and forsaken the sin that drove me to the bishop’s office that day, and today I truly feel clean. I am still far from perfect, but thankfully, Christ’s grace is sufficient to save. With Him, I can be forgiven, healed, and given the strength to overcome my weaknesses. And through His gift of repentance, I can be molded into the person I’m meant to become.