Posted February 7, 2008
A”laughing hyena” doesn’t really laugh, of course: its yelp is a sound that resembles strident laughter. Nor does a crocodile shed tears of grief while consuming its prey, though this ancient belief has spawned the phrase that connotes insincerity. Nature is replete with such counterfeit behavior patterns, but so is super- nature-the supernatural life that we are called to live.
One form of such fakery is a false kind of contrition or sorrow for sin, to be clearly distinguished from the real thing, as Paul asserts. “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death” (2 Cor 7:10). God isn’t primarily interested in mere apologies: he wants us to experience a sin-remorse that results in a different attitude and a change of behavior (metanoia) that involves not just a stopping of sin but a turning to God in sincerity of heart.
Godly sorrow is supported by the Holy Spirit’s power, enabling us to change in three ways: It gives strength to resist future temptation, it makes us less arrogantly self-assured of our own efforts toward holiness, and it makes us more God-dependent. This “repentance unto life” (Acts 11:18) is not mere dread of punishment, but love-sparked “perfect contrition,” so dear to God.
Without genuine humility in a heart broken not only for sin but also from sin, tears of sorrow are merely crocodile tears.“One-Minute Meditations for Busy People” by Fr. John H. Hampsch, C.M.F.