Gerard W. Hughes in his book, ‘God of Surprises’ lays out what are marks of true and false repentance.
True repentance frees from self-preoccupation because our trust is in God’s goodness working in us. In God’s light we see our darkness,
False repentance immerses us in self-preoccupation. We delight in what we consider our virtue but are irritated by our vice, refuse to acknowledge it and project it on to others,
True repentance brings joy and inner freedom
False repentance increases anxiety and makes us more defensive
True repentance can welcome criticism and learn from it
False repentance is touchy about criticism and learns nothing from it
True repentance brings understanding, tolerance and hope
False repentance engenders a rigidity of mind and heart, dogmatism, intolerance and a condemnatory attitude
True repentance brings compassion and therefore a sharpened sensitivity to all forms of injustice
False repentance is sensitive to justice only in so far as it promotes the interest of the individual or their group and is therefore selective in its moral condemnation
True repentance shares God’s laughter and frees the mind to see the humour of all situations
False repentance tends to be over serious and cannot laugh at itself
True repentance a person feels drawn to God
False repentance a person feels driven by God
There characteristic qualities apply not only to individuals within a Church, but also to the Church itself:
A Church with a spirit of true repentance will be concerned primarily with its mission, not with its maintenance. It will see all its securities as provisional, finding its one security in God.
A Church with a spirit of false repentance will be primarily concerned with its own maintenance, whether of its doctrinal or moral orthodoxy, or its prestige in society, the preservation of its own structures or of its material possessions.
A Church with a true spirit of repentance will encourage the critical and mystical elements as well as the institutional in its members.
A Church which has no true repentance will emphasize the institutional elements and give little or no encouragement to the critical and mystical.