How can we know when we feel true contrition for our sins?
There’s no such thing as ‘untrue’ contrition. There’s only perfect and imperfect contrition - the first motivated by love of God, the other motivated by lesser concerns such as fear of hell. As a quick rule of thumb, if you say an Act of Contrition - or even the publican’s prayer from the Gospel - ‘Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner’ - and mean it, you have contrition.
As a more interesting exercise, imagine yourself in God’s shoes. Imagine that someone has done to you what you have done to God by your sin. Imagine you can read that person’s mind, heart and soul as they apologise to you. Imagine that you can see what that person is thinking and feeling - and that it’s exactly what you think and feel about your sins. Then ask yourself would you forgive them? You should have your answer.
You choose to be.
Contrition doesn’t mean you break down in tears.
It doesn’t mean you feel uncomfortable around the person you have offended.
It doesn’t mean you don’t want to do the same thing again.
It has nothing to do with your feelings or desires.
It only has to do with your choice to value your relationship with God enough to be sensitive enough to know when you have damaged it or broken it- and to want to repair it as soon as possible when you have done so.
Really? Because I keep seeing the word sorrow.
Sorrow as a choice- not as an emotion. Some people are not very sensitive and don’t feel bad about things very easily- that doesn’t mean they have less ability to be contrite for their sins. Contrition is a conscious decision- otherwise God wouldn’t make His forgiveness of our sins dependent on it.
Alright, but I always read we have to be contrite for our sins in order to make a good confession, so clearly just going to confession doesn’t mean were contrite? If it’s an action, a concious decision, then how do I make it??
How do you decide anything? How did you decide to get up out of bed this morning, or switch your computer on, or log into CAF today? In the words of the Nike ads, you just do it!
It’s not ‘just’ going to confession. For an adult it’s a positive, willed act. Something we consciously choose to do, and aren’t forced to or do accidentally or anything. So taking yourself into the confessional and going through the process is certainly very strong evidence of contrition in and of itself.
You’d have to accompany that act with something really contrary, like a deception of the priest by lying whilst in the confessional, or the actual positive intention of going out and committing those same sins, or other sins, again, for the act of going to confession to NOT mean you’re contrite.
Actually, I think you have raised a very profound and serious issue. The problem becomes apparent when one has been steeped in a pattern of sin and then repents. Perhaps some can bear me out on this.
Sin is an inherent lie, a pattern of sin a life of lies. The lie-in-chief is that I can make my own happiness and have no need of God. Generally it is supported by rationalizations that have been drawn from associates and other resources. Who wakes up in the morning and says, “Today I think I will do evil. Yes, I will do evil repeatedly.” No, instead, one tells oneself that while it may be evil for another, it is certainly not evil for me because I have reasons. Or one tells oneself it is thought by some to be evil but it actually isn’t. We each of us know, of course, that we are inherently good and lovable therefore what we do could not be less. God has made exceptions in our case. We compound sin, therefore, by also confusing and mystifying the meaning of good. We go on to provide by our actions and words rationalizations for others. Hence it is said that evil has many friends, but good is a lonely traveler.
Now in the midst of these lies we have been telling ourselves, for whatever reason, we repent. Just exactly how do we know that we have stopped lying to ourselves? That this repentance of ours is not mere self service? We have told repeated lies to ourselves; now we are telling one truth. How does the one side of the scale stack up against the other?
My own answer begins with work and time. You must act as if.