In an exchange this weekend with Tom Brokaw, Joe Lieberman said he regretted some of what he’d said during the campaign.
Brokaw said, “I hear the word regret, but not the word apologize.”
Lieberman responded that he’s “going forward,” adding, “You can take from the word ‘regret’ what you will. I wish I had not said some of the things I’ve said. But again, we all do it.”
Putting aside the particulars of what Lieberman said during the campaign, I’m pretty sure that “we all do it” is not part of the Jewish tradition for achieving spiritual purity.
Rabbi Shraga Simmons on Aish.com summarizes the Jewish process of Teshuva, or repentance:
Step 1 – Regret. Realize the extent of the damage and feel sincere regret.
Step 2 – Cessation. Immediately stop the harmful action.
Step 3 – Confession. Articulate the mistake and ask for forgiveness.
Step 4 – Resolution
In the rest of the essay, he notes that the process is sometimes hobbled by particular excuses that we devise:
Sometimes, we try to justify our actions, using a variety of excuses:
“Everyone else is doing it”
“At least I’m not like some people who go around killing and stealing!”
“Who are YOU to say it’s wrong?!”
Regret is not really possible unless we can clearly distinguish between right and wrong. Otherwise, we will just rationalize and delude ourselves into thinking we’ve done nothing wrong. The ever-changing, sliding standards of society contribute to this lack of clarity….