There are regrets thrust into our souls when we wish we could begin again; we wish we could take back twisted words that now haunt us; we wish angry, regretted moments could be pulled back and calmed; we wish actions taken without understanding the ramifications could be repaired. There are times in our lives when we wish we could begin again; make amends, be more thoughtful before speaking, better understand before making judgments or slamming doors, but time cannot be turned back. We begin from where we are, and not from where we want to begin.
We can’t begin back where we were. But we can begin where we are, and in our eternity of existence, this is a reassuring fact. There is virtually nothing that we cannot turn away from if we really want to. There is virtually nothing we cannot improve. There is virtually no habit that we cannot give up if we will sincerely set our will to do so and will sincerely seek and accept help — the help of others and follow the immutable truths given to us.
Unfortunately, our interest in being better, in improving upon the past, in turning to new ways, in leaving habits behind, sometimes seems to be a wish without a will, a wish with resignation, a wish that assumes that about all we can do is wish that we could go back. But there is no one who cannot be better by turning toward the ways in which we should travel, however far we may have traveled in the wrong direction.
Without the principle and possibility of repentance there would be little incentive left for any of us — for all of us need it, whether we know it or not. And though we cannot go back and begin where we were, we can begin where we are, wherever we are. No one is justified in assuming that a habit that has hold of them is unbreakable or that a poor past performance cannot be improved. Repentance, of course, has four components essential to actually work effectively. I call them the four R’s of true repentance.
First, we have to recognize what is wrong in our thought process, our words and actions. Second, we need to regret whatever our flaws are. No regret, no chance of true change. Third, we need to resolve to change course; to make things right from this moment on. And fourth, we need to make restitution; to apologize, to return what was taken, to repair what was broken; to pay whatever price is exacted upon us; to make things right.
The wish to begin again, the wish to live life over with what we know now, is a wish that cannot be realized. There is no turning back to any point or period of the past. But if we can’t begin where we were, we can begin where we are, and the memory of a wrong road is blessedly dimmed by the reality of being on the right road.