If you go to confession just because you feel it is your duty and you scrounge around to find a few things you think might be a “sin” but you’re not really sure and you think you probably haven’t done anything bad because you’re a nice person and after all, you didn’t commit adultery or rob a bank or hit anyone…
This is not perfect contrition.
If you go to confession because you’ve done something that embarrasses you when you think about it, or maybe you just feel guilty or you are ashamed of what you’ve done or maybe you’re scared you’re going to get caught. The fear of punishment includes the fear of hell. You might also desire heaven. These are some of the good emotions you should have, and this is better than nothing, but this is not perfect contrition.
This is what the church calls “imperfect contrition.”
Perfect contrition is when you have learned to accept the love of God and you love God so much that you are truly sorry for your sins because you have offended the one who loves you and gave everything to redeem you.
Here’s an example. Let’s say you lost your temper and slapped your mother. Think of the look of hurt and sadness in her eyes. Suddenly you see that and you are terrified at what you’ve done. You are truly and completely sorry because you have hurt the one who loves you.
THAT’S perfect contrition. When you are given the grace to truly repent because you have understood how much your sin has wounded the purity, goodness, beauty and truth of God himself.
Pray then, during Lent for the gift of perfect contrition, but to get there you must first understand and accept at the core of your being the totally perfect love and mercy of God.
Pray then, for this gift.
PS: One way to enter more fully, and experience the complete and total love of God is through my book Praying the Rosary for Inner Healing.