Spiritual Keys: Repentance and Forgiveness

Dealing with Sorrow

There are two types of sorrow we have to deal with in life that affect our self-esteem. The wrong choices we make that create sorrow for ourselves require repentance. The wrong choices other people make that inflict sorrow upon us require forgiveness.

I once met a delightful married couple who had previously been addicted to tobacco, alcohol, and drugs for many years. They had both desperately wanted to stop, but kept relapsing. They finally understood that their only hope was to completely repent of their sins, turn their lives over to God, embrace His divine teachings, and ask Him to heal them. Through their fervent prayers, perfect faith, and Priesthood blessing from God, they were miraculously healed from their addictions.

When I became acquainted with this incredible couple, they were both actively involved in their community and church and were raising two beautiful children. They taught me so much about how to do God’s will. They completely embraced, as a normal part of their everyday lives, the spiritual commitments to which I had often only given lip service up to that point in my life. I could see how relying on Jesus Christ’s Atonement had healed them through their sincere repentance and His divine forgiveness.

Repentance and Self-esteem

Repentance is vital to high self-esteem. When we make mistakes or sin, we need to acknowledge and accept that what we have done is wrong. As long as we blame others, or make excuses for ourselves, we cannot move forward in life. We are spiritually and emotionally stuck in one place. The scriptures clearly explain how to resolve our past sins and weaknesses—replace rationalization with repentance. He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy (Proverbs 27:13).

Our life is like a house, and we need to claim ownership. If we say we don’t own our house, then we are just pretending that all the problems in our house are someone else’s fault. When we take full ownership, we are then free to keep, fix up, or sell our house. The Savior can help us build the house of our dreams. He said: In my Father’s house are many mansions . . . I go to prepare a place for you (John 14:2).

Before we can repent of our sins, we must feel guilt for our mistakes. Guilt is a misunderstood word. Some people feel guilty about everything going on in their lives. Others feel guilty about nothing. Guilt is for sin. If something is not a sin, we should not feel guilty about it. If it is a sin, we should feel guilty about it—then we should stop what we’re doing, repent, and seek God’s forgiveness. Jesus Christ said: For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more (Hebrews 8:12).

We can all have a spiritual rebirth as did Saul, the influential leader of New Testament times, who had previously persecuted the Christian saints. The repentant Saul became Paul the Apostle, and he actively taught the doctrine of repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We can do as Paul did with regard to his own sins—admit them, repent of them, and preach against them.

Forgiveness Makes Us Free

After we sincerely repent of our sins, we must seek forgiveness. It is our responsibility to accept God’s divine mercy and grace into our lives. Many of us never move on to this next step, but keep dwelling on past sins. Christ kindly taught about the cleansing power of repentance and forgiveness when he addressed the publicly disgraced woman with these spiritually transforming words: Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more (John 8:11).

To receive forgiveness, we must be willing to forgive others. For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you (Matthew 6:14). Only through forgiveness will we ever feel completely free and whole again.

If we are angry because we have been hurt by another person, either intentionally or unintentionally, we need to acknowledge our pain and anguish as being very real. But then we need to fervently pray for emotional relief, and rely on the Savior to heal us.

Over time, through our Savior’s help, we can replace our hurt and anger with true forgiveness. He will help us forgive, and then forget, our deepest sorrows. He will take away our pain and anguish. He will help us say with complete sincerity and love to those who have so deeply hurt us, “I forgive you.”

Joy & Peace

The spiritual keys of repentance and forgiveness unlock the door to joy and peace. Using these keys daily helps bring happiness and high self-esteem.