Regretting our Faults and Giving Them Up
159 If we want to be set free, we have to recognize our faults and regret them.
160 We recognize our faults when we learn what sorts of things are wrong, see them in ourselves, admit them, take responsibility for them, and criticize ourselves for them. When we do this in front of God, we are recognizing our faults.
161 We regret our faults when, once we have admitted them and asked with a humble heart for help in giving them up, we stop acting on them and start living a new life in harmony with the rules of kindness and faith.
162 If we only admit in a general way that we have faults, and consider ourselves guilty of everything that is bad without looking closely at ourselves and seeing our own faults, then we do admit that we have faults, but not in a way that makes us reg ret them. If we do not know what is wrong with ourselves, we will keep on living the same way we did before.
163 When we are living in kindness and faith, we regret our faults every day. We think about our bad traits, admit them, avoid acting on them, and ask the Lord for help.
When we are on our own, we are always falling down. But the Lord always puts us back on our feet and leads us toward what is good. This is our state of mind when we do good things.
When we do harmful things, we are always falling down, and the Lord still keeps picking us up. But he can only prevent us from stumbling into things that are even more destructive, which is what we always tend to do on our own.
164 When we look closely at ourselves so that we can regret our faults, we should examine our thinking and the intentions in our motivation. We should find out what we would do if we could--if we were not afraid of the law or of losing our reputation, status, and money. The things we find are our bad traits. This is where all the harmful things we actually do come from. If we do not look for the bad traits in our thinking and motivation, we cannot regret our faults, since we keep on thinking and wanti ng the same things we did before. And wanting harmful things means doing harmful things. That is what looking closely at ourselves means.
165 Just saying we are sorry without acting on it is not regretting our faults. Saying we are sorry does not mean we have given up our faults--only showing our regret in our lives does.
The Lord always forgives our offenses, since he is pure compassion. But our faults stay with us, even when we think we have given them up. The only way to get rid of them is to live by the rules of the truth that comes from faith. The more we do this , the more our faults are put aside, and the more we give them up.
166 Some people believe that when we give up our faults, they are completely wiped away, or washed off like dirt that is washed off with water. But our faults are not completely wiped away--they are only put aside. In other words, we are kept away fro m them when the Lord keeps us involved in good things. When we keep doing good things, it seems that our faults are gone--as if they had been completely wiped away. And the more we change our lives for the better the more we can stay involved in good thin gs.
In the next chapter, on rebirth, I will explain how we change our lives for the better. Anyone who thinks there is any other way to give up our faults is badly mistaken.
167 Here are the indications that we have given up our faults and put them aside:
We enjoy worshipping God just because he is God, and helping out other people just because they are people. So we enjoy doing good things just because they are good, and telling the truth just because it is true. We do not try to take credit for our kindness and faith. We avoid and reject things that are wrong, such as unfriendliness, hatred, revenge, and adultery. We avoid even thinking about these things with any intention to do them.
But here are the signs that we have not given up our faults or put them aside:
We do not worship God just because he is God or help other people just because they are people, so we do not do good things or tell the truth just because they are good and true. We do these things for our own benefit and to get material things. We w ant to take the credit for what we do. We feel nothing unpleasant in things that are wrong, such as unfriendliness, hatred, revenge, and adultery. Because of this, we think about these harmful things as much as we want to.
168 If we regret our faults when we are free, it accomplishes something. But when we regret them under compulsion, it is worthless. We are under compulsion when we are sick, or depressed because some disaster has happened to us, or when we are about t o die, or when we are so afraid of something that we cannot think rationally.
If we are harmful people, when we are under compulsion we may insist that we regret our faults, and start doing good things. But as soon as we are free again, we will go right back to the same old destructive life. If we are good people, it is differ ent.
169 After looking closely at ourselves, recognizing our faults, and regretting them, we should stay firm in our good habits for the rest of our lives. If we backslide into our former harmful life and adopt it again, we corrupt ourselves by combining d estructive and good things. We are then worse off than we were before, as the Lord said:
When a dirty spirit leaves someone, he travels through dry places searching for a place to rest, but does not find one. Then he says, "I will go back to my house, which I left." When he gets back, he finds it vacant, swept out, and furnished for him. So h e goes and gets seven other spirits who are even worse than he is, and they move into the house and live there. So the person ends out worse off than he was before. (Matthew 12:43-45)