Monday, February 9, 2009

Metanoia

A cartoony heart.Image via Wikipedia
Yesterday, during his excellent sermon (which the stupid iPod failed to record again- doh!), Mike mentioned "repentance". Repentance is one of those really loaded Christian words that triggers a lot of negativity for some of us. To me, it invokes images of forced conversions. Repentance is something you do to avoid punishment. Repentance is looking back. Regret. Guilt. Not such a great word.

However, what repentance really means is to have a change of mind, a change of heart, a change of being. Repentance is literally becoming a new creation. But, the word I prefer to repentance is metanoia. According to Wikipedia:


Metanoia in the context of theological discussion, where it is used often, is usually interpreted to mean repentance. However, some people argue that the word should be interpreted more literally to denote changing one's mind, in the sense of embracing thoughts beyond its present limitations or thought patterns (an interpretation which is compatible with the denotative meaning of repentance but replaces its negative connotation with a positive one, focusing on the superior state being approached rather than the inferior prior state being departed from.)
Wow. I don't remember writing that Wikipedia entry. Actually, these are almost my exact thoughts while Mike was speaking yesterday. While the definition of repentance and metanoia may be exactly the same, the connotation (at least for me), is completely different, which is why I prefer the latter word. Metanoia implies a looking forward. A resolution to do things differently. A breaking beyond old boundaries.


I don't do a lot of repenting these days. Repenting, as it's been taught to me, is the "second arrow". When we first make a mistake, that is the first arrow (fired into ourselves). The second arrow is when we start to beat ourselves up for the first arrow. The third arrow is when we beat ourselves up for beating ourselves up. I try to keep the arrows to a minimum. Mistakes are going to happen. They happen daily. Several times a day. Sometimes I'm fairly pleased with my progress. Sometimes I'm amazed at just how slow it is. But, whichever it happens to be, I try not dwell on my stumbles. I review them in my mind, try to determine how I could have handled that situation better and resolve to move forward and try to do just a little better next time. Instead of viewing mistakes as something to regret and to fret over, I try to view them as learning opportunities, observing how my mind works and reacts to certain situations and training it to react better the next time around.


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6 comments:

Sue said...

Good post :)

I love the process of metanoia. The delicious feel that there is a tantalisin ways of looking at something differently that will lead to greater freedom. The process feels fun and holy to me, which is a weird combination.

It is so far from that ego-involved dirgelike mustering up of enough "feeling bad" emotions to qualify me for forgiveness :)

brian said...

Yeah, Sue. I like the way you put that. Metanoia is a joy. Fun and holy.

karen said...

Good word. And Word.

Kansas Bob said...

Great thoughts Brian! When I think of repentance I think not so much as turning from something but turning to something. I think that, in a sense, it is about the triumph of the inner being over the flesh.

brian said...

Understood, Bob. It sounds like you don't carry the same baggage/scars some of us do. That's great!

Don said...

There was a wonderful discussion that periodically returns over at "Jim's blog", Divine Nobodies:
http://www.divinenobodies.com/blog/
I really like that discussion as well as what you've said here. I, too, like Metanoia better than the word repentance; too many bad memories. Great post!