The Personalist Project

Another writer—this one coming from a Jewish perspective—notices the widespread confusion about forgiveness in our culture and its disastrous neglect of the moral imperative of repentance. (Hat tip Jules, who found it.)

I've argued here often and often that our communion with one another (not to mention our integrity as individuals) is seriously menaced by a bogus notion of forgiveness—one that lacks due seriousness about the reality of wrong and the dignity of the wrongdoer and victim alike. It says, in effect, peace, peace, when there is no peace.

In an article for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Understanding the Lost Art of Repentance and its Urgency, Louis Newman goes so far as to say that forgiveness is a piece of cake compared to repentance.

Repentance, what Jewish tradition has called teshuvah — “turning” or “returning” — entails nothing less than a radical transformation of our selves and our relationship to others. It requires profound psychological self-awareness, which includes both recognizing our own moral blind spots and exploring the character traits that cause our moral lapses in the first place.

And just as "forgiveness" can be too facile and superficial to achieve it's aim of reconciliation, repentance can be (and often is) perfunctory and unreal.

But counterfeit repentance, like counterfeit currency, has no value. We can’t restore our integrity or repair our relationships with others by merely pretending to repent; there are no shortcuts to an ethical life.

All of which explains why genuine repentance is so rare. The work of examining our selves and repairing the relationships we have broken is arduous and always has been.

We are severely tempted to avoid it, which is why we're apt to latch onto theories that seem to render it unnecessary. What they really do though, is keep us stuck in denial and alienated from God, ourselves and those who would love us. It's not just the Truth of the gospel that sets us free; it's the truth about ourselves.

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