Horizontal Repentance: 3 Signs of Worldly Grief

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. 2 Cor. 7:10
By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain
New York State has annual regents exams. Like all tests, they have strict guidelines. If a student asks directions on how to answer, teachers were instructed to say, “Read the question and do your best.”
One question asked students to write a letter for a specific purpose. The instructions asked them to only write the body of the letter. However, the kids had been taught through eleven years of schooling that letters had return addresses, business addresses, salutations, and closings. For this test, we’d told them–let’s round the number up to the closest guestimate–a billion times to answer this standard question like an essay: intro, body, conclusion.
While proctoring, a young woman raised her hand. I went to see her need.
“Do I use my address? They didn’t give me their’s” she said.
“Read the instructions.” I can be trained to respond appropriately.
“But I don’t have all the information…”
And around it went, until my normal teaching habits kicked into automatic responses. “No. Remember? It’s just the body. Beginning, middle, end.”
Of course, my department head caught me. Turned me in for cheating. Got me written up.
Never had I been disciplined in my work. I believed my integrity had been assaulted, and I spent months (literally) in tears and sorrow.
A good friend Barry comforted me. One phrase he said knocked into me the realization about my melodrama. “Are you sorry for what you did, or that you got caught?”
Insulted, I couldn’t admit to him he was correct. Not admitting it prolonged my grief.
I didn’t want to cheat. Never intended to do so. I couldn’t admit it then, but the grief of having a formal reprimand drove me out of my mind.
This is horizontal grief. Worldly repentance.
Not godly.

Signs of Worldly Grief

  1. I’m sorry if… I’m sorry you… Do you cast your apology in terms of the other person disapproving. “I’m sorry if my actions offend you.” “I’m sorry you didn’t like that.” It’s not about you being wrong. It’s about the other person being offended by your actions.
  2. If you weren’t caught, would you be sorry or feel the grief? In my example, I knew instantly that I goofed, and I would have striven to never make the mistake again. In that sense, my grief was godly. However, even though I couldn’t admit it, Barry was right. Had I not been caught, my sorrow would not have overcome me.
  3. Did it effect raw emotions only or did it prompt change? Emotions change. If you haven’t given your wrongdoings to God, Satan will buffet you with them. If you’ve confessed and striven to change your life, then it’s godly repentance.

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