You might start remembering long forgotten indiscretions you'd once considered excusable, insignificant, funny, or clever...and realize with a gulp that they were actually appallingly nasty or immoral behaviors to have engaged in.
At this point, many people do one of 2 things:
- Try to re-bury it all as fast as possible by forgetting it or dismissing it as "not that bad" or blaming another person or situation.
- Indulge in self-denigration and self-loathing, and generally feeling bad in an attempt at fake teshuvah.
But feeling bad about something bad you have done is really good!
It shows that your values are changing -- and changing for the better.
For example, it means that you're starting realize that:
- Aiming snipey little barbs at people really isn't clever.
- Mocking others in the wittiest way really isn't funny.
- That act of petty revenge? It actually wasn't so petty or even justified.
- Angry outbursts really aren't so easily forgotten or defensible.
- Chronic lateness isn't actually so excusable or benign.
- [Fill in your own personal "uh-oh!" moment here.]
And that's a very good sign.
Once you start realizing how bad a certain middah is, you're less likely to indulge it.
Not only that, you start feeling antsy about it just sitting on your cheshbon. Despite other feelings of dread or discomfort, the urge to apologize, reimburse or rectify start to prick at you.
These are real feelings of teshuvah: remorse and rectification.
It's very important not to get bogged down in just feeling bad, which is sharpest detour AWAY from teshuvah. People who just feel bad usually don't do much work on their middot.
They just end up drowning in self-loathing.
So once you start feeling bad, please also start feeling good about feeling bad.
It means you're changing for the better.
It means you've started internalizing true ideas of right and wrong.
You're exchanging lies for the Truth.
You're on your way to becoming a deeper, wiser, and better person.
And that's really good!
5 Reasons Why Self-Denigration Never Helps