I’d heard the concept before, but when I heard it again it really hit me forcefully: Judas didn’t repent, he regretted. I began thinking of the difference between the two and was convicted, wondering how often I actually am regretful rather than repenting. See what you think of the differences I thought of. I’m sure you can think of more.

  • Regret focuses on my outward behavior; Repentance focuses on my heart motives.
  • Regret is sorry I got caught; Repentance is glad I got caught.
  • Regret is motivated by the pain of consequences; Repentance is motivated by causing grieving of the Holy Spirit.
  • Regret wants to hide my sin; Repentance wants to be exposed and cleansed.
  • Regret is defensive and resists asking for forgiveness; Repentance takes full responsibility and asks for forgiveness.
  • Regret blames others; Repentance focuses only on myself.
  • Regret only changes enough for the appearance of image; Repentance continues to examine my life and be honest.
  • Regret downplays the sin; Repentance fully admits the sin.
  • Regret is embarrassed because my image is marred; Repentance is grieved for the pain my sin caused others.
  • Regret leaves open the door for further sinning; Repentance seeks the Spirit’s full power to fully change.

Oh my, such a list makes me wonder if I’ve ever even experienced true repentance. I’m so glad we aren’t expected to be perfect in our repentance and we will have to fight the easy way of regret. 

I must admit that I’m hoping that Judas somehow did truly repent. After all, he did throw down the money. Even if he didn’t, there is always hope for each of us to be more fully repentant by using our regrets to lead us into repentance. 

How about you? Which element of regret do you tend to move into and which aspect of repentance is easiest for you? I pray we all can turn more quickly to repentance. 

And if you’ve thought of another difference between the two, please share them!