Repentance is the first step on the road to recovery of a relationship with God or realization of the original nature. Sins, attachments, and mistaken views must be acknowledged as such; then it is possible to turn away from the old life and set out on the new path of faith. Since accumulated sins and delusions form a barrier obscuring the presence of God or the true self, repentance is a condition for God to forgive the sin and eradicate illusion, that the divine Presence may once again grace the penitent’s life.
Repentance is sometimes misunderstood as being fulfilled by words of contrition uttered in prayer. Words of contrition are indeed significant when they reflect a fresh inner realization that a particular course of action was wrong, and when they are accompanied by a sincere vow not to repeat the sin. But that is only the first stage of repentance. The second stage, one far more efficacious, is to confess the sin to others, particularly a confession to the person who had been wronged. The humiliation and shame which accompanies confessing one’s sin to another makes such repentance extremely serious, and laying one’s sins out in the open is a powerful cathartic. The third stage of repentance is to make some substantial compensation for the past misdeed. This means to do penance or to make restitution to the person who had been wronged, or, if that is not possible, to someone else representing that person. Finally, repentance should result in an actual change of direction in the life of the penitent, as he endeavors to perform good deeds and eschew his former transgressions.
(from the book: World Scriptures II)