Dear 100 Hour Board,
How do you have a change of heart? I think I do and sincerely have changed when I repent but then later I make the same sin again? So how do I make it permanent?
-over and over and over again
First of all, I'm sorry for holding this question over for so long. I'm not exactly sure why, but this has been a difficult answer for me to write.
From recent discussions that we've held in my ward, and according to my bishop, there's a difference between repenting and overcoming, at least in the way that I'm choosing to think of the concepts. To me, repenting is realizing that you've done wrong and taking steps to make a change in your behavior in order to correct it. That doesn't mean that the temptation or even just the tendency to sin again is not there. There are some sins that I don't know if I will ever fully be able to overcome in this sense, such as not reading my scriptures as often as I think I should or acting selfishly, just to name a few examples. Does that mean I didn't truly repent the last time acted selfishly and tried to repent? I guess it depends on how you define repentance, but to me repentance is not only an act, but also a continuous process of changing the heart, and not one that can be contained to a few minutes in prayer with Heavenly Father pleading forgiveness for what we've done. Is that a necessary part? Yes, but I think it's only one part of a larger process.
To me it's kind of like how weakness is not the same as sin. Even Christ had weakness that He had to overcome throughout His life, yet He was perfect and did not sin. Since we are imperfect, often our weakness leads us to sin, but it's important to distinguish that it's not our weakness, but how we act on it that is the sin.
So, to answer your questions, I think you're doing better than you think you are. The fact that you are thinking about it and wanting to change speaks a lot about where your heart is at. Remember that God cares more about which direction we're heading than where we are at. I believe that God is good and merciful, and willing to forgive over and over again. I believe He knows when we are trying even though we are not completely changed. Above all, I urge you to include Him and our Savior into this process. I think only as we include Them can we feel complete and successful in our efforts to repent and change.
-the Goose Girl
I was just talking to Anne about this and she referred me to True to the Faith and the Young Women's Manual. That is some good content.
If you are caught in a pattern of doing behavior over and over again and you feel stuck in it, you may benefit from talking to a professional therapist. Some things are very hard to get out of and secular treatments can often help as an adjunct to spiritual healing.