In my scripture study this week, I am reading the Apostle Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. As I study, I look for principles that I can apply in my life. I found a particularly powerful principle in 2 Corinthians 7:9-10 that brought back some memories for me. Paul was writing a second epistle to the people in Corinth because of the way that they received his first letter. He was sorry for making them feel bad, but he was not sorry that his letter caused them to repent of their sins.
9 Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing.
10 For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.
The principle that I found in those verses is, “I must feel godly sorrow for my sins in order to truly repent.” As I thought about this principle, I remembered an experience of some years ago. I always understood that Jesus Christ suffered for my sins, but I never understood what I could do about it. One day an idea suddenly came into my mind. It was a revolutionary idea, but one that I took to heart. The thought was that I could decrease the Savior’s suffering two thousand years ago by decreasing my sins today. I wondered how many drops of blood that He shed specifically for my sins, and I determined that I would cause Him as little pain as possible. I committed to watch myself better in order to lessen his pain because I love Him.
President Ezra Taft Benson taught that it is a gift of the spirit to feel godly sorrow for sin. This means that we should feel sorrow for committing the sin and causing the Savior pain rather than just be sorry that we got caught or embarrassed or whatever. President Benson continued, “It is a deep realization that our actions have offended our Father and our God. It is the sharp and keen awareness that our behavior caused the Savior, He who knew no sin, even the greatest of all, to endure agony and suffering. Our sins caused Him to bleed at every pore. This very real mental and spiritual anguish is what the scriptures refer to as having `a broken heart and a contrite spirit.’” (See “A Mighty Change of Heart,” Ensign, Oct. 1989, 4.)
When we feel godly sorrow, it is different than regular sorrow because it comes from the Holy Ghost working in our hearts to purify us from our sins. It comes when we are humble enough to receive the Spirit. Elder Neal A. Maxwell (1926-2004) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles says, “Pride prefers cheap repentance, paid for with shallow sorrow. Unsurprisingly, seekers after cheap repentance also search for superficial forgiveness instead of real reconciliation.” (See “Repentance,” Ensign, Nov. 1991, 31.)
“Cheap repentance” and “shallow sorrow” will not relieve the pain and guilt that are the result of sin. In order to truly rid ourselves of sin, we must feel sorrow for committing the sin and causing the Savior more pain. Even though I am a mortal and still commit sins, I am positive that I am committing fewer sins than I would have without this understanding. I am grateful that the Holy Ghost brought this insight to me, and I am attempting to eliminate sin from my life.