In a previous letter, Paul had corrected the Corinthian Saints about something. We don’t know the details of what they were doing wrong, but we know the result: They repented and changed course!
In his next letter, Paul praised them for taking these steps to change. He said that while he was initially sorry to have made them feel bad with his chastisement, he didn’t feel bad now that he saw how it had worked out. In fact, he rejoiced—not because the saints had sorrowed, but because their sorrow had led them to repentance (see 2 Corinthians 7:8–9).
We should feel at least a little bad when we make mistakes. We shouldn’t despair and beat ourselves up and wallow in misery, of course. But a twinge of sorrow is good if it motivates us to do better. That’s what Paul calls “godly sorrow,” contrasting it with “the sorrow of the world” (2 Corinthians 7:10).
Mormon talked about this, too. When the Nephites started showing signs of regret about their lives, Mormon sadly observed that “their sorrowing was not unto repentance, because of the goodness of God; but it was rather the sorrowing of the damned, because the Lord would not always suffer them to take happiness in sin” (Mormon 2:13).
Maybe you’ve heard it put another way: Are you sorry that you did something wrong, or just that you got caught?
Next time you mess up, allow yourself to feel the godly sorrow. Accept correction with humility instead of pride. Then get up and try to do a little better the next day. And congratulate yourself—because that process of learning is what life is all about!