The Tawba Trap: How Sorry Should You Be for Your Mistakes?

Sep 4, 2015 | Divine Names

White RoseTawba is one of the foundational teachings in Sufism – and a natural part of being human regardless of religious beliefs. Tawba simply means repentance – sorrow and regret for the mistakes we’ve made in life.

Once we recognize we’ve made a mistake, it’s natural to feel sorry, especially if it hurt someone’s heart or even our own.

The heart naturally wants to make things right, usually by asking for forgiveness or making up for the “wrong” actions somehow. Or, let’s be honest, sometimes we toughen up and go into anger and justification – why we had to do it or why they deserved what they got. But this doesn’t feel good either. It hardens the heart and seals the hurt inside, which can lead to illness.

Tawba is the remedy that heals the hurts and returns the heart to Love. But sorrow and regret are only initial parts of this practice. Key to the healing is the RETURN that comes after we feel the regret.

Here’s the trap: There’s a subtle twist that can happen in the regret phase. It turns the sorry feeling inward, so that we begin to make our selves wrong instead of just acknowledging the mistake as wrong.

The inner dialog, though it may be subconscious, usually goes like this: “I’m so sorry. I’ve really messed up. I’m so bad for what I’ve done. I deserve to grovel and wallow in this pain. I’m not worthy of forgiveness or love.”

Kind of hard to move into the RETURN to God’s Love from this downward spiral into deeper and deeper unworthiness, right?

Here’s how to avoid that pitfall: First, KNOW that making mistakes is part of the human journey. We humans are created to make mistakes. Mistakes cannot make us wrong when God has created us to make the mistakes.

The important thing is to receive what God wants to give us through the mistake. The sorrow opens the heart to a deeper place that truly wants to return to love. In the sorrow, acknowledge the place that wants to return to Love and turn to that Love with gratitude!

The inner dialog might then sound something like this: “I’m so sorry. I feel like I’ve messed up. I feel bad for what I’ve done. I ask for Your forgiveness and I thank You for helping me to recognize my mistakes. Please turn my heart toward You and fill my heart with Your Love, so that I may learn Your truth and never make this mistake again.”

Do you notice the difference? The first dialog says “I am bad…” The second says “I feel bad…” To make yourself wrong is a downward spiral. To feel sorrow opens a place inside that deeply wants love. So when you open the place that wants love – this is the plan – turn that place to receive love. The love is what heals your heart and returns you to wholeness.

The tool for washing the heart with Love is another foundational teaching in Sufism called the Remembrance. This practice was taught and demonstrated by Dr. Wadude Laird in his teleclass on Heartfulness: The Key to Health & Spiritual Well-Being.

You can access this teleclass and several others in our FREE Teleclass Series: The Journey Home: Essentials for Living a Life of Health, Peace and Wholeness.



If you can, take time to listen to Dr. Wadude’s teleclass this weekend, and join us this coming Wednesday for a class with his beloved wife, Nura Laird, on The 5 Keys to Healing Family Relationships.

Wadude and Nura Laird have studied Sufism for over 30 years. Wadude will be anchoring the Year 1 class for our Masters of Divinity program that starts in November. Nura is head of the Department of Peacemaking. These are two of the most gifted teachers I’ve ever met, both humble and sincere, and dedicated to living the teachings of the heart.

Please join them and several others…