I’ve written a bit about repentance in my previous blogs, mentioning it here and there. Spiderman: Homecoming gives us a beautiful example of what repentance looks like.
The Oxford Dictionary defines repentance as:re·pent·ance
repentances (plural noun)
the action of repenting; sincere regret or remorse.
"each person who turns to God in genuine repentance and faith will be saved"
synonyms: remorse · contrition · contriteness · penitence · sorrow · sorrowfulness · regret · ruefulness · remorsefulness · pangs of conscience · prickings of conscience · shame · guilt · self-reproach · self-condemnation · compunction · conversion · rue · sorriness
Although repentance is a noun, it requires action. Theologically, our Sacred Scriptures tell us that repentance is a turning around, a move from wrongful action to right action, from facing away from the Sacred to walking toward the Sacred. This requires an inner and outward action on our part.
In the beginning of Spiderman: Homecoming
We watch Peter Parker in school after he returns from Avengers: Civil War. He considers himself an Avenger and Spiderman. Throughout the day, he continually checks the school clock, waiting for the moment he can leave and head out to be Spiderman. Peter begins to quit different school activities, such as band and academic decathlon. He sneaks out of his Aunt’s apartment to do Spiderman things.
Once he starts fighting the bad-guys who make dangerous alien-technology weapons, he begins to experience himself as above school. He skips out of classes, misses exams, etc.
This poor behavior does not serve him in the long run….
After Tony Stark confronts him:
However, after his run in with Tony Stark, when Tony tells him he wants the spider-suit back; after his moment of unconditional love and mercy from Aunt May, Peter changes his behavior 100%.
He accepts his detention, unhappily, but he accepts it and serves it.
Peter engages more fully in his classes, raising his hand to give correct answers instead of waiting to be called on.
By rejoining the academic decathlon, he begins to reengage in school activities.
Ned and Peter reconnect as friends once more, doing teenage boy things.
He apologizes honestly to Liz, his love interest, for skipping out on the decathlon in DC. Allowing himself to be vulnerable and expresses his feelings, his interest in her, winning himself a date to homecoming.
He asks Aunt May’s help in getting ready for dating a girl!
You can see a powerful transformation in him. Peter is now standing in his true self, integrating his Spiderman self. He is being more authentic, more responsible.
This prepares him for the moment he comes face-to-face with (spoiler alert) his arch-enemy, the Vulture, who happens to be unbeknownst to Peter, Liz’s dad.
Repentance is not an easy thing. It is not a “I’m sorry” and continue on with your current behavior. Repentance is a meaningful apology (a taking of personal responsibility) accompanied by action that creates a change in behavior, a 180, that sets you upon a more authentic, compassionate path.
The Oxford Dictionary’s synonyms for repentance offer us the emotions that are involved in the inner experience:
remorse · contrition · contriteness · penitence · sorrow · sorrowfulness · regret · remorsefulness · pangs of conscience · prickings of conscience · shame · guilt · self-reproach · self-condemnation sorriness
These emotions guide us inwardly to move toward an outward expression of authentic repentance, of transformational behavior, attitude, and self. Because of our inner remorse, we are determined to right the situation, to act better, to be more compassionate. The two go together, one can not be separated from the other.
Peter is able to fully change his behavior because his remorse, his regret, his shame, his self-reproach are met with Tony Stark’s tough love and Aunt May’s unconditional love, which ignites within him a desire and determination to be better. He does that. He becomes who he can fully become.
Repentance asks us to do just this. We will make errors in our lives. Sometimes, we will be less than compassionate. We will hurt others intentionally or unintentionally. This is part of being human.
The spiritual journey teaches us that when those moments arise, we can repent. We can feel those emotions and allow them to guide us to be better people, to change our behavior, to be more compassionate, to right the situation.
Trust that as you transform your behavior, you will find yourself walking toward the Sacred, walking toward Compassion, walking in Unconditional Love. You will experience yourself more fully aligned with the Sacred, with your True Self. You will be standing fully in your Power.
Pastor Jocelyn Emerson weaves together her training as a Light and Energy worker, Reiki master, spiritual director, and Pastor with her life experience as a mystic and contemplative to offer a space of trust, safety, and honesty to support you on your life's journey.