I’ve noticed that I’m always repenting for the same things. How do you know when you’re truly sorry and you won’t do it again?
Repentance means overcoming sin by changing your heart, attitudes, and actions. If you find yourself sorry one minute for something you’ve done or said, yet get caught up in the same action again, then you need to sit down and do some serious thinking and reading in the scriptures about what truly repenting means.
Is repentance necessary? Yes. Wickedness never was (nor ever will be) happiness (see Alma 41:10). In other words, repeatedly doing something that you know is wrong will affect the happiness you feel now and in the future. You cannot fool yourself by ignoring it or by saying that it really doesn’t matter, it isn’t very important, or it’s too hard to overcome. Until you take care of the things you are doing wrong, you’ll feel it like a weight slowing you down.
Back to your problem of repeatedly repenting for the same thing. To change, you must resolve to stay as far away as possible from the situation or people that encourage you to sin again. Elder Spencer W. Kimball in his book The Miracle of Forgiveness told this story about three men applying for the job of driving buses for a transportation company. The first one said he was such a good driver that he could drive steep mountain roads with the tire at the edge of the precipice and never go off.
The second driver boasted that he could drive so accurately that half the tire could be over the edge and the bus would not leave the road.
The third driver pleased the employer and was awarded the job when he said, “Well, sir, I can keep just as far away from the edge as possible” (pp. 217–18).
By giving in over and over to the same sin, you cease to learn and grow from the experience of repentance. Instead you become discouraged with yourself and your weakness. It is time to turn to the Lord and ask for his help in changing your heart and having the strength to stick with your resolve. Elder Kimball said, “It is normal for children to try. They fall and get up numerous times before they can be certain of their footing. But adults, who have gone through these learning periods, must determine what they will do, then proceed to do it. To ‘try’ is weak. To ‘do the best I can’ is not strong. We must always do better than we can. … We have a companion who has promised: ‘Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you’ (Matt. 7:7)” (Miracle of Forgiveness, pp. 164–65). You can accomplish anything with the help of your Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, particularly something so significant as repentance.
“Surely the Lord was speaking about forgiveness through repentance, and the relief that could come from the tenseness of guilt, when he followed his glorious prayer to his Father with this sublime entreaty and promise:
‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
‘Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
‘For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light’ (Matt. 11:28–30)” (Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 368).
Then when you have given up the sin that has bothered you and fully repented, the time will come when you will be like the people in King Benjamin’s time. They were no longer inclined to do evil (see Mosiah 5:2). The joy and freedom of full repentance will be yours.
The essence of repentance is a change of mind. When we repent by changing our behavior while our mind remains unchanged, we will always feel the guilt within us. Sincere repentance should always be accompanied by fervent prayer and fasting, which gives us the desire for a change of mind to do good continually.
Elder Solomon Fode Boima, 23 Nigeria Lagos Mission
If you say you won’t do something, the opportunity and temptation may seem greater than ever before, but not greater than you can bear. This is the Lord’s promise. When you repent, remember your promise and make a special effort to watch for those opportunities to show the Lord you are sincere.
Shauna Fox, 16 Cameron Park, California
I made a commitment to myself that I would not do the things I was repenting of again. Whenever the thing strikes my mind, I think of my favorite hymn or ask what Jesus Christ would do if he were in my shoes. Pray to Heavenly Father for his guidance in helping you to overcome your problem. I’m sure he will help you.
William Loke Hing Chiang, 16 Ipoh, Malaysia
When you are honestly repentant, any thought of repeating the sin will give you a truly sorrowful feeling. Never underestimate the power of searching for guidance through scripture study and prayer. True peace from repentance comes when you follow the Lord’s counsel and from listening to the promptings of the Spirit.
Catherine Poulos, 18 Lemoore, California
You need to feel sorry in your heart. Just try your hardest and listen to the Holy Ghost.
Jennifer Cozza, 12 Phoenix, Arizona
Repentance means confessing and forsaking your sins, but it also means losing the desire to commit the sin. After you have lost the desire, you may be tempted, but it will be easier to say no. Also, do your best to stay away from the situations where you are tempted to commit the sins.
Kurt Knight, 16 Terre Haute, Indiana