Teshuvah means to regret some mess-up you made, and resolve never to do it again.
We can’t tell you how to feel regret or resolve; it’s just something that happens inside. But we can give you a few tips on how to clean up the mess a mess-up leaves in its trail. You see, that teshuvah feeling inside actually empowers you to clean up the mess. Here’s how:
Step One: Say it out loud.
How: At night, or sometime when you are alone, say out loud, “Dear G‑d, I am sorry for the sin I did in Your presence by [your sin goes here].” There’s a specific prayer for this in your prayerbook, called vidui, which we say on Yom Kippur. You can say vidui and add this line at any point.
When you hear your voice saying how much you regret what you did, it hits much deeper inside.Why: Somehow, when you hear your voice saying how much you regret what you did, it hits much deeper inside. Your words help to pull that mess out of you, so that you can throw it away forever.
Step Two: Fix up what you did
How: Apologize and compensate to whoever may have been affected by your mess-up. If at first they don’t forgive, keep trying until they get unreasonable.
Why: If your mess-up was something between you and somebody else, then it wouldn’t be fair for G‑d to forgive you without involving that somebody.
Step Three: Charity
How: Just give a lot more than you’re used to giving.
Why: A mess-up diminishes life; charity means to give life. Charity heals the world, and your soul as well.
Step Four: Move up in life
How: Compensate for whatever happened. Do better, act nicer, learn more.
Why: The mess-up event acts like inertia to drag you down. It has to be turned around into an incentive to pull you higher.
Teshuvah is powerful. Of course, we don't sin to do Teshuvah, but according to our sages, a sin can take you higher than all the mitzvahs could ever reach—if you do teshuvah out of love. Love for G‑d, for His Torah and for your precious soul.