Digest of terms

repentance

sense of regret about previous mode of living and actions associated with it, accompanied by a determination to think and behave differently in the future. It may be induced by feelings of guilt or shame regarding the emotional hurt or physical harm done to self or others. In religious traditions this admission of moral failing or falling short may, often through the practice of confession, also be significantly restorative to the path being followed or to a sensed relationship with God renewed through his forgiveness.

Whether or not the change of heart involved is perceived in religious terms, the process referred to may be deeply transformative for the person(s) involved. Such revolutionary implications were fundamental to the use of the term by John the Baptist, drawing on the earlier language of the Hebrew prophets, who called on Israel to re-order its life radically in keeping with the justice and generous-heartedness attributed to God. In recent years the best known example of this collective process can be seen in the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. A perhaps more controversial development has been the call by some for Western governments to express formal regret for the transatlantic slave trade or the crimes of colonialism through public apology.

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