What is the difference between regret and repentance? We can see the difference when we are looking at a child who has done something wrong. A child who regrets what he has done walks around downcast and feeling sorry for himself but a child who is repentant comes back to the parent, apologizes, receives the punishment and moves on. Repentance is a stage, rather than a state of being like regret. Repentance takes us from where we are into a stage of reconciliation and reintegration into the body of Christ. We believe that as we grow in Christ, we are truly becoming one with Him as He and the Father are one. Repentance is one stage of this process that allows us to move closer to being one with Christ.
In the below quote, we can see the difference between regret and repentance. The wicked feel regret for their actions and anguish about what it means for their future. But they never change their actions or their mind; they simply regret their poor decisions. Repentance moves us towards God but regret focuses our attention more solidly upon ourselves and as a result, produces more wickedness in our hearts.
Wisdom of Solomon 5:1-4
Then the righteous man will stand with confidence in the presence of those who afflict him;
And those who reject his labors, when they see him, will be shaken with dreadful fear;
And they shall be amazed at his unexpected salvation.
They will speak among themselves with regret, and in anguish of spirit they will groan and say,
“This is the man whom we fools once held in derision and made a byword of disgrace.
We considered his life to be madness and his death as without honor” [emphasis mine].
Interested in reading more about repentance? (redirects to Greek Orthodox Church of America page on Repentance & Confession)