Teshuva, Love and Fear
Teshuva (repentance) love and fear are three rungs on the spiritual ladder. They are entirely different from each other yet they have many things in common. For instance each of them includes increased awareness, desire, expectation, results, growth, fulfilment, and more. Perhaps the most interesting thing about these three is that they each have both lower and higher levels, and that these levels are entirely different from each other.
Some of the prominent signs of lower level teshuva are; regret, sorrow, tears, embarrassment, promises, intense hope….
The major signs of higher level teshuva are thankfulness and joy, joy in our life, joy in our service of Hashem, joy in our feelings towards others.
The same person doing the same act of teshuva; when it is lower level teshuva he (or she) experiences regret, when it is the higher level teshuva, joy.
Love: When someone is experiencing lower level love they say, "I love you. I want you. Come to me."
When someone is experiencing higher level love they say, "I love you. How can I help you? I want to give to you,"… same person, same love, but lower level or higher level… lower stage or higher stage.
Fear: Lower level fear says, "Oy! Don't hit me. Oy! I better be careful or I am going to get hurt!"
Higher level fear is awe, overwhelmed by the glorious Presence of Kedusha (Holiness). No words, just reaching up, yearning to merge into the wondrous splendor of His Presence. Higher level fear is the highest teshuva, the greatest experience of love, and the greatest awe the soul can experience without leaving the body.
Three steps, three stages we are to take in our spiritual lives, each is within us, each with its own distinct level, each bringing us closer to the ultimate goal.