Nothing requires more courage than the admission of one’s fault. The disturbance that repentance evokes in our personal and collective psyches, while ruminating over a past wrong or misdeed, is so upsetting that we tend to exhaust every other available choice before we own up. We dread the bold admission that we are in the wrong. Not only individuals but also communities and nations face this dilemma.
Human beings have a double nature capable of great sacrifice and charity and at the same time capable of committing heinous acts. This is because the instinct to do good and the instinct to do bad are intertwined with both positive and negative qualities. We tend to hurt others by our thoughtless and selfish inclinations. There are moments in our lives when we regret our actions and wish we had not done what we had. There would be hardly anyone who has not at sometime or other grappled with feelings of guilt.
In most scriptures, there is a provision of undoing wrongs. But certain wrong like murder cannot be undone. They can only be forgiven. To those who are overburdened with guilt over things that had gone wrong, there is always a way out. God offers a second chance. Even nature will. Spiritual life requires, not to be selfish, greedy or proud and so on. We have the golden rule which lays down that we should do unto other what we expect others to do unto us. And whenever we violate these rules, we become liable for strife, tension and ill health.
Repentance means change, a new beginning, it means starting all over again. Repentance is not behaviour change, it results in behaviour change. Repentance happens in your mind. It brings humility, gratitude and a desire to set things right. Our actions are changed by our hearts, our hearts are changed by our minds and minds are changed by the word of God. Repentance is not a one time experience, it is our constant teacher.
All of us have an idea as to what needs to be improved in ourselves. Based on this realization, we constantly plan to bring various small and big changes in our life. Some changes that people desperately try to bring in themselves include quitting vices such as addictions, rage, greed and envy, developing healthier habits of diet control and physical exercise, improving one’s intimate relationships, enhancing efforts to achieve desired goal and being calm in the face adversities and so on.
Usually a plan to execute change is made and carried out but success is often elusive. Even changing the smallest habit appears to be a mammoth task. Why do we fail even after the best of intentions and efforts? This is when people blame the circumstances, fate and lack of support as the main culprits. After a deep introspection, one realises that the answer lies within. How easy is it to change oneself? We understand the barriers to change that exist within and deal with it appropriately.
The first barrier to any change is our tendency to deny or downplay the problem. When we become aware of a problem in ourselves, it injures our self love and brings pain and fear. In order to restore self esteem and eradicate fear people take refuge in denial and trivialisation. Thus they convince themselves that the problem does not exist or it is not important. However, if people can understand the process of denial and face the pain and frustration, the urge and effort to change will come automatically.
The second important barrier to change is lack of self confidence. While people want to change, they don’t feel confident enough that they will be able to carry it out. Therefore, either they shy away from making an attempt or even minor setbacks devastate them. They give up easily and do not try persistently. They keep on telling themselves “you are no good”, you will not be able to do anything. If these people can constantly reassure themselves that change will come if they start believing in themselves. Their journey towards change and self growth will be miraculous.
The third crucial barrier is drift in focus of attention. Attention is the base and yet the most significant cognitive capacity to achieve anything. We are product of our attention. Our attention helps us in registering our problems, understanding it, making a plan and working through it. To solve any problem, whether big or small, our attention is needs to flow in that direction adequately. Due to information overload and excessive need to indulge in pleasure, our attention goes haywire. We acknowledge, but soon get distracted and forget the problem at hand. In order to change we need to free ourselves from unnecessary things or engagements and redirect our attention to the right direction. This will ensure that the problem is resolved.