According to St. Nicodemus the Athonite there are different types of grief or sorrow one may feel after falling into some transgression. Grief can be motivated by self-esteem or by a genuine remorse and willingness to repent. Which of the two do we experience?
A sorrow that is godly and heartfelt will produce repentance which cleanses us from sin and our alienation from God. While the sorrow of the world one that is self-centred, and more troubled by the embarrassment and the predicament we find ourselves in, stops short of repentance and reconciliation to God.
Apostle Paul says “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death” (2 Cor. 7:10)
St. Nicodemus tells us:
It is wrong to regard as a virtue the excessive grief, which one feels after committing a sin, not realising that it is caused by pride and a high opinion of themselves, based on the fact that they rely too much on themselves and their own powers. For by thinking they are something important they undertake too much, hoping to deal with it by themselves.
When the experience of their downfall shows them how weak they are, they are astounded, like people, who meet with something unexpected, and they are cast into turmoil and grow faint-hearted. For they see, fallen and prone on the ground, that graven image which is themselves, upon which they put all their hopes and expectations.
Alternatively, if one does not rely on himself but puts his trust in God, when they fall they are not greatly surprised and are not overcome with excessive grief, for they know that it is as a result of their own impotence, and above all, of the weakness of their trust in God. So their downfall increases their distrust of himself and makes them try all the harder to increase and deepen their humble trust in God.
Therefore St. Nicodemus advises us in order to avoid being overcome with excessive grief caused by pride after having a downfall, we should have as our desire the need to wash away as quickly as possible the filth of sin which has offended God, and acquire new strength to fight against our old self through the most holy sacrament of repentance and confession.
However sometimes we got to confession with the wrong motivation. As St. Nicodemus says, some go to confession not to express their humble repentance, but go to their spiritual father “exhausted by their grief and anguish, which they suffer for no other reason but self-esteem, in order to be freed of their excessive grief rather than the sin which causes it”. Only humble, whole-hearted repentance will grant relief. Otherwise our grief will continue to be excessive!
Source: Unseen Warfare