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Repentance (and Remorse)

“Remorse consists of an emotional acknowledgement of an error which arises from a subjective identification of the subjective with the objective and, indeed, with the illusion that this involves our reinstatement on the path to salvation. What is absolutely certain is that remorse is state related to factors outside the disposition towards betrayal and is primarily due to criticism, manifest or concealed, direct or indirect, from external factors or from a conscience tinged with regrets (Matthew 27, 3). So remorse is essentially an egocentric state which nails the unnatural state of our fallen human nature to a steady departure from the path of salvation as prefigured in the Old Testament and confirmed in the Gospel teaching. To put it more simply, remorse is an apparent shift towards improvement, but in essence represents an enduring persistence of the self-centered impulse towards evil.” (Vasilios Grillas)

“Only those sins which are not repented of lead to death. Judas, for example, although he showed remorse, did not repent and was led off to his death. But whoever has given himself over to Christ cannot commit mortal sin, even though his nature remains unchanged and he still sins…repentance is more than a mere feeling. Remorse is possible after death…but it will be fruitless for those who did not repent in their lifetimes.” (Oecumenius, Valentina Ulyanova)

 “There are tears of repentance, when the soul desires eternal good things, and they are very sweet and beneficial. And there are tears of remorse, where (according to the Savior’s word) there is weeping and gnashing of teeth (Mt.8:12), and these tears are bitter and useless, because they are altogether fruitless.” (Venerable Ephraim the Syrian )

“St. Paul acknowledges that not all sorrow is spiritually bad for us. There is a sorrow which does nothing but weigh down the heart and results in depression or despondency. This sorrow in Paul’s thinking is a worldly sorrow which produces death in us and therefore is not healthy. Conversely, there is also a sorrow which can uplift us. This is a godly grief that ultimately brings about in us remorse and repentance, which leads us back to God – a godly grief that leads to a blessing.” (Fr. Ted Bobosh)

“Today there are many voices suggesting that remorsefulness is a bad thing. Some propose that people should be without hangups, be "laid-back," or "hang loose," in the words of the young. But there is also such a thing as a healthy remorsefulness. All people do things that are wrong, and it would be subhuman not to be able to accept the responsibility for them. The problem people are not the sinners, but the ones who are no longer aware of doing wrong.” (Fr. Milton Efthimiou)

“When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. ‘I have sinned’, he said, ‘for I have betrayed innocent blood’. ‘What is that to us?’ they replied. ‘You see to it’. So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself. (Matthew 27: 3-5). It is not uncommon, though certainly unhealthy, for people to confuse remorse with repentance. The confused situation in which we find ourselves today also engenders confusion in theological thinking. This is clear if we take into account the huge gap between theological theory and theological experience. So, on the level of the inadequate functioning of theological experience, remorse is equated with repentance.” (Vasilios Grillas)

“In the original Greek, the word “repentance” appears as metanoia. Literally, this word means “to change the nous or deep center of the heart….Repentance is thus to reform the inner core of ourselves…True repentance is not just feeling sorry, but involves both the heart and actions….Repentance indicates a complete change in thinking, an “about face” of the mind and heart. Genuine repentance is evidenced by changed behavior….Being sorry [remorse] for sin is not enough. Repentance demands a change of mind and heart that results in changed behavior.” (Dynamis 10/10/2020, Orthodox Study Bible, Jonah 3:5-9, Foundation Study Bible, Acts 26:20, Life Application Study Bible, Jeremiah 3:11-13)

“Repentance is not to be confused with mere remorse, with a self-regarding feeling of being sorry for a wrong done. It is not a state but a stage, a beginning. Rather, it is an invitation to new life, an opening up of new horizons, the gaining of a new vision. Christianity testifies that the past can be undone. It knows the mystery of obliterating or rather renewing memory, of forgiveness and regeneration, eschewing the fixed division between the "good" and the "wicked," the pious and the rebellious, the believers and the unbelievers. Indeed, "the last" can be "the first," the sinner can reach out to holiness.” (Greek Orthodox Archdiocese)

“Remorse can be a good thing or not. In today’s culture with so much misguided emphasis on thoughts and feelings as preeminent it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that because we feel remorse that makes us good. We can stop short at only feeling remorse or we can let the feeling of remorse drive us to the act of repentance. For example, if I feel bad about something I did wrong to someone but never apologize, ask for forgiveness, and then take the action to repair the wrong, and also never behave that way again, or less frequently because despite any weakness I have my heart is now convicted of needed changes in my behavior, then my remorse is worthless. If I do these things then my remorse is good because it served as the catalyst for repentance.” (Sacramental Living Ministries)


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