Normalizing Repentance

My views on the world and issues I care about have changed greatly, especially in the past ten years. I used to eschew the term “feminist” because I didn’t consider myself a man-hater – and what else was a feminist? I consistently supported policy positions that undercut social justice efforts because I believed I knew better than the people most affected. I bought into a model minority myth that reinforced negative stereotypes about others and pitted my community against other people of color. I cringe now thinking about these and many other things I’ve said and done online and in real life.

I’m not interested in adding directly to the extensive discourse on wokeness and cancel culture. Like many vocal people on the Internet, I have been on both sides of this debate. I choose not to support those like J.K. Rowling whose works I otherwise might have passed onto the next generation or continued to reward financially with related purchases if not for her transphobia. At the same time, I defend Lin Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton musical as subversive in its own way, even if it’s not perfect – a decision that led to a small flame war in the #WritingCommunity on Twitter and resulted in at least one friend permanently blocking me. During the 2020 U.S. presidential election, I lost friends on both sides of the aisle for disagreeing on issues that matter to us. I don’t blame people for blocking and removing people from their circles (online or offline) who hurt them. It is a sacred exercise of each of our free agency to choose those around us.

What I would like to address is the frequent crossover from one thing (i.e., that an individual might separate themselves from another due to harm or even a simple desire to disassociate) to another (i.e., that someone is irredeemable). It is not a radical interpretation of the gospel to recognize this simple truth: everyone is redeemable. That does not mean harmed and affected people need to do the work of redeeming – quite the opposite. It is up to the person causing harm or abusing God’s children or hurting others with false teachings to repent. Nobody else, no matter how well meaning or loving, can do the hard work of repentance on their behalf. At the same time, we must leave space in our communities for repentance or none of us can eternally progress.

There is something corrupting in the soul about rejecting a culture of repentance. I was reminded of this as I learned about the many barriers to re-entering society that former prisoners in the United States and around the world are subjected to: reporting requirements on job applications, ineligibility for public benefits despite disproportionately coming from populations who would need it the most, and in some cases even disenfranchisement. Many of those who oppose lowering these barriers argue that criminals deserve to continue to be punished forever: they consider former prisoners irredeemable. No sentence or community service or repentance would be enough for some to see returning citizens as God sees them: precious children with a divine nature and eternal destiny who will be held accountable for their choices as we will be for ours.

There is no alternative to repentance because none of us, no matter how good, is perfect (Ecclesiastes 7:20; Moses 6:57; Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8; Alma 42:29; Mosiah 26:28-32; Luke 13:3). Normalizing repentance for ourselves and others is one of the hardest things we are asked to do, but we must do it. Let’s strive to follow the Savior’s example in D&C 61:2: “I, the Lord, forgive sins, and am merciful unto those who confess their sins with humble hearts”. Through sincere repentance and forgiveness, we can sanctify ourselves and heal our families, communities, and nations.

Nicole Sbitani
Nicole Sbitani
Nicole is an adult convert, a mixed-race woman, and a professional diplomat. She blogs at The content of this post does not represent the views of the U.S. Department of State or any other U.S. Government agency, department, or entity. The thoughts and opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and in no way should be associated with the U.S. Government.


  1. I agree. When people “bring forth fruits meet for repentance “ – ie demonstrate they have truly committed to change them as a society we should create space for that. I think your point about the criminal Justice system is a good one. If we want people to turn from a life of crime we should make that a realistic possibility

  2. I saw an example recently of someone practicing public repentance, and it was very humbling. To have done/said/written things that are very hurtful, and to spend significant time coming to understand why that was hurtful, and then directly and publicly apologize for the harms while moving forward in a better way? Not easy. I deeply respect this person and hope I can be willing to follow that example when needed.

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