People are quick to ask for forgiveness of a wrong that they have done (or perhaps, have not done). There is, of course, nothing wrong with such a thing. From a Christian standpoint, the concept of forgiveness is intrinsic to not only commands given to individuals, but also to the very method of salvation that is offered. Repentance is a subject which volumes can be written on. Yet the precursor to repentance is remorse, a topic that is too infrequently discussed.
In circumstances where one causes pain to another, an apology is typically offered and hopefully accepted. Repentance occurs and restoration commences. Yet repentance seems too often rushed. People discuss their issues, move onward, and the situation is done. While I do not dispute with the nature of this, remorse is often rushed over, or perhaps even completely ignored. The gravity of an offense is focused on so little it is worth pondering whether or not an apology is sincere. Does one understand that their action can cause a wound toward another that lasts a lifetime? One should be crippled by the very thought that one’s actions can cause such chaos. Yet, humanity moves on so quickly. Woe to this!
The reflection of remorse is hastily swept over due to a lack of accountability humanity wants with its actions. An apology, while the offering of such is good, is accompanied by justification of one’s actions, or perhaps even the minimization of such. The externalizing of blame reduces repentance to a mere gesture – a meaningless attempt to fix a problem. This happens because the individual has not yet understood the gravity of their actions. Remorse is a reminder of what one can do and why repentance is such a powerful thing.
Soren Kierkegaard states that remorse is a friend of each person. I will quote him at length:
There is a concerning guide, a knowing one, who attracts the attention of the wanderer, who calls out to him that he should take care. That guide is remorse. He is not so quick of foot as the indulgent imagination, which is the servant of desire. He is not so strongly built as the victorious intention. He comes on slowly afterwards. He grieves. But he is a sincere and faithful friend. If that guide’s voice is never heard, then it is just because one is wandering along the way of perdition…So wonderful a power is remorse so sincere is its friendship that to escape it entirely is the most terrible thing of all. A man can wish to slink away from many things in life, and he may even succeed, so that life’s favored can say in the last moment, “I slipped away from all the cares under which other men suffered.” But if such a person wishes to bluster out of, to defy, or to slink away from remorse, alas, which is indeed the most terrible to say of him, that he failed, or – that he succeeded?
Remorse is the friend by which each individual understands the direness of one’s sin. Kierkegaard goes to the extent to say that if one were to devoid oneself of remorse that it is the most terrible of all things. To rid remorse from one’s life is to rid responsibility, accountability, and basic recognition of wrongdoing. The lack of remorse has immediate impact on repentance. If there is little remorse, the repentance will be minute. If there is no remorse, the repentance is fakeness masquerading as goodness. One deceives the other and one deceives one’s Self.
When we ask for forgiveness, what do we do? Do the deed and walk away as if nothing has happened? No more! Understand the gravity of actions. Understand that one act has the potential to cause suffering to another. Understand that repentance is no mere escape from guilt, but the recognition and acceptance of guilt. Let repentance take its course only after remorse has captivated and settled.