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Lent and an Appreciative Approach to Repentance

Posted: February 15, 2010 by Rob Voyle

Repentance is about turning from one course of action to another. Repentance is fundamentally about making changes. We can use the 3Rs of repentance to understand the mechanism of change and the elements that people need to consider when making changes.

Recognize: That we are doing something we don't want to do.
Without awareness we will never recognize our need to change.

Regret: Being conscious of the cost to others and ourselves of our actions.
If we don't truly regret our actions we will not change.

Reorient: Turning from what we don't want, to what we do want.
If we continue to focus our attention on what we don't want we will persist in that behavior.

Failure to complete a desired change is usually the result of a failure of one of the repentance steps. In my experience, when coaching people, the most important though is the reorient step. Many of us can recognize and regret our undesired actions but the harder we try to stop the undesired behavior the more we remain stuck, just as St. Paul reports in his letter to the Romans. Staying focused on the undesired behavior prevents us from reorienting to the desired behavior. During Lent if we only focus on what we don't want parishioners to be doing we will ensure they keep doing them. What we must do is reorient them to the call of the Good News.

Similarly if the focus of Lent is self-denial and learning to say no, we will never discover grace and the new life that Jesus comes to offer. In our congregational study program Yes!3 we help parishioners discover what is truly life giving to them and how they can orient their lives around what they discover thus facilitating genuine repentance.

Any "no" or act of self-denial in the spiritual life
is only as helpful as the deeper "Yes" that the no allows.

Rob Voyle

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