What is contrition?


What exactly is contrition? I know that it’s feeling sorrow for your sins, but is it a feeling or what? When I sin, I know it’s wrong, I know it offends God, I want to repent, but I don’t know if I feel contrite enough. Objectivly I know I should feel sorry, and I want to repent, but I dont really feel anything. So what exactly is contrition? How do I know I feel it?


Contrition is not a feeling but an act. It is a fruit of love. The sinner, realizing his sins, is sorrowful over His shameful offenses against the Lord and God, whom he must love as his Lord and God, and, who resolves, by His grace, to go to confession so he can receive God’s Mercy, to do penance so he can cultivate virtues in himself, and to amend his life so he sins no more. It is like a wife who repents and grieves after commititng adultery agaist her husband.


But how do I know if I have this sorrow? How do I know I have contrition? I want to repent because objectively, I know I should, but does that count?


Contrition, often called “compunction of heart,” may exist as a dichotomy or along a continuum. Theologian’s often distinguish between imperfect contrition and perfect contrition. Perfect contrition is sorrow or penitence for going against God’s perfect Law (The Law of Liberty - the Law that sets us free). Imperfect contrition may simply be sorrow or penitence by fear of divine wrath (that’s okay too). Penitence is not altogether the same as sorrow though - we may regret something without feeling overly-emotional about it. Of course, when we behave in a morally unjust way to someone close to us (such as cheating on one’s spouce), we would expect to feel the type of remorse that ought to go along with repentance of sin. Men that are distant from their wives may know no remorse as such. I’d suggest trying to draw closer to God - become intimate with Him in a way that you never-before have and see how it affects your sense of contrition.

C.S. Lewis was on the ball when he said (paraph.), “It is better to know the feeling of compunction of heart than to be able to define it” - How true, isn’t it?

May God touch your heart, BM. :slight_smile:


Yeah, I know the definition of perfect and imperfect contrition, but I don’t particularly feel remorse or guilt or anything most of the time, I mean, theres nothing gnawing at me to go to confession, although I want to because objectivly, I know what I’ve done was wrong and I need to repent,though, I dont really feel anything, it’s mostly objective. is this contrition? I’m 15 by the way.


I would suspect that if it is, only to the faintest degree. I sometimes have been known to pray to God that I would be awake to my own offenses - that I would feel contrite, feel regret. All good things are a gift from God, even contrition. I would pray, if i were you, to receive it in full. God is gracious, after all. Also, I don’t see any reason why your age would make a huge difference except for that your faith may somehow still be in its infancy. But yeah, I would take time to ruminate about why and how we offend God by sinning. Pray, pray, pray! For Wisdom and a conscientious heart. :thumbsup:


Yes - look at the definition. ‘Penitence’ comes from the Latin word for ‘regret’, which certainly doesn’t have to be an overwhelming emotional feeling, but can be a mental awareness, and is certainly sufficient, when coupled with sacramental confession, to obtain forgiveness for mortal sins.

Remember what Jesus said - ‘why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’, yet do not do as I tell you?’ That ‘calling me Lord, Lord’, to my mind, is a situation where someone has the warm fuzzies that are commonly called love. Jesus is pointing out that love is a verb - it manifests itself in action, and obedience - rather than a feeling.

Same with contrition - it too is a manifestation of love. And as I’ve said, it is manifested in action.


I mentioned my age because that whole cheating on your spouse example doesnt apply to me and proabably some other reasons I’ve most likely forgotten. But thanks.


His shameful offenses

… his shameful offenses*

Corrected. Sorry for being a heretic there. :frowning:


How is that heretical?


I think you should pray over this exact question. Repent means turning away from the path of sin. So to be repentant, you make a conscious decision to stop a certain sin and put it to death.

I understand what you mean by knowing that you “should” repent. The real question is … do you want to? Do you want to stay in a particular sin? Or do you want to STOP doing it, for real?

If the answer is that you know you should stop but you’re not willing to, pray to the Lord for help. I can tell you from experience that He has helped me put sins to death that I never could have tackled on my own.

BTW, just noticed your age. Praise the Lord that at 15, this topic is on your mind. Take the question to God, He’ll show you the way.


Why not read some good prayers of contrition?

There are many on the web and some in the links below.

I think we should always strive for perfect acts of contrition. That is we should picture all the pains and fires of Hell, or Purgatory… and be like a soul in Purgatory… willing to plunge in there… To say, God, if you condemned me to this, I still love you. If you never did anything for me. I still love you. And I wish I had never done any of these sins, not for any benefit or detriment of mine, but because they are against you, and I would rather plunge into these pains than commit these sins again.

Try to make an act of pure love and pure rejection of those serious sins we are still attached to, and all sins in general. Feel sorrow, repent, and truly desire to do penance and mortification to make up for it – and truly do penance and mortification.

The more we do these acts the more I think we will become truly like them outside of making them… willing to take on pains rather than desiring temptations, willing to suffer rather than sin. :slight_smile:



I believe that in order for us to be truly penitent, we must really know and understand on an interior level who we are. Since we are masters in deceiving ourselves (most often thinking we are better than we are, as the saints of God have told us over and over again,) it is necessary to pray particularly for the grace to know one’s sins. On an intellectual level we may have been told something is sinful, yet we cannot quite apply it to ourselves because we have not been convicted by the Spirit that we are guilty of that sin. Make sense?

This is scriptural, in fact. *"he who seeks only himself brings himself to ruin, *(selfishness=sin), whereas he who brings himself to nought for me (realizing our “nothingness” and sin before God = true contrition) discovers who he is. Matt 10:39

This takes some thought, but I hope it helps.


Mmh, beautiful.


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