I grew up in the Christian church, which is very big on the gospel. The gospel goes something like this: All of the bad things we’ve ever done deserve punishment. But Jesus Christ died on the cross to take away the punishment and grant us eternal life and lots of other awesome benefits. To access those benefits, you have to believe in Jesus and repent of all of your sins. When you repent, God forgives you, because of Jesus, and all is well.
Because the gospel is the Best News in the world, Christians talk about it A LOT. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. What is bad is when these important categories start becoming the only categories in your life.
To be fair, I do sin quite a bit. And when I sin, I feel guilty. And then it is good for me to confess my sins and turn away from them. It’s a cleansing and freeing process. But having repentance emphasized so strongly meant that I began to see all my problems as sins. And then I started repenting for things I had no business repenting for.
I got depressed, and I repented.
I had negative feelings about people who hurt me, and I repented.
I made silly mistakes, and I repented.
I wasn’t fully reconciled to people I had forgiven, and I repented.
Other people got needlessly upset at me, and I repented.
I had low self-esteem, and I repented.
I got a bad haircut, and I repented (just kidding, but barely).
If I had any kind of problem, or any kind of bad feeling, the obvious answer seemed to be repentance. I needed to say I was sorry for whatever had happened, and then God would forgive me and I could stop feeling bad about it.
Unfortunately, it turns out that repentance is not a cure-all. It does not magically solve any and all problems. It is only good for dealing with actual sins. It’s pretty worthless when you try to use it where it doesn’t apply.
When I get depressed, I need medications or lifestyle changes to help me get out of it.
When I have negative feelings about people who hurt me, I need to know those feelings give me important information and work from there.
When I make silly mistakes, I need to learn from them and move on.
When I’m not fully reconciled to people I have forgiven, that can be hard, but it’s not wrong.
When other people get needlessly upset at me, I need to let it go. It’s not my issue.
When I have low self-esteem, there are things I can do to improve it.
When I get a bad haircut, the answer is hats.
These days, I am repenting for my actual sins, and finding appropriate responses to my other problems. Repentance is great, but it is not the answer to everything. It’s like I was trying to get ahead in Super Mario by destroying all the goombas and other enemies AND destroying all the blocks. You don’t need to destroy the blocks. That’s the wrong strategy, and it’s just a waste of time. I need to focus on the actual enemies, and treat blocks like blocks. My life is much better and makes a whole lot more sense.