What we all really need first of all is an objective and complete examination of conscience. Feelings of guilt and shame can be useful indicators, but a genuinely objective examination of conscience using a helpful guide like this one starts getting us down to deep repentance. A good confessor–and one you go to regularly is also a great help.
Then what I call deep repentance is eventually given as a gift. This is a very profound inner awareness of the seriousness not just of individual sins, but our basic sinful condition being cut off from God.
Deep repentance is when our eyes are truly opened and we see how sad, destructive and sordid our selfish choices have been. We see with a clear vision how destructive and pointless our selfishness has been to others and to our own growth as a person and a potential saint. We see the waste, the utter waste of our choices and at the same time we see all that could have been if only we had taken the other choice–the choice for life, the choice for goodness, the choice for beauty, the choice for chastity, the choice for peace, the choice for generosity, the choice for love, the choice for God.
This deep repentance does not produce more shame, guilt and fear. Instead it produces a calm confidence tinged with sadness. Sadness at what has been lost, but confidence in the Divine Mercy.
Deep repentance produces a resolve to pursue the good, beautiful and true before it is too late. It produces a simple determination to amend one’s life not because one has to, but because one wants to.
Deep repentance produces the knowledge that God looks on us with pity not with blame and we can rise knowing that his graces will lift us from deep repentance to a high and glorious confidence.