What constitutes t'shuvah? That sinners should abandon [their] sins and remove them from [their] thoughts, resolving in [their] hearts never to commit them again....One must verbally confess and state these matters which have been resolved in one's heart.
Moses Maimonides Laws of Repentance 2:2
The rabbis of ancient times had, as mentioned before, many different views about both faith and practice. Different teachers and sages offered up different approaches or systems for repentance. The one thing that all of them shared was that they viewed t'shuvah as a process that takes place is stages or steps. As I read and learn more this season of Elul about t'shuvah, I am struck by the similarities between the ideas of my chosen faith and those of twelve step programs like AA.
Judaism does not treat addictive behaviors like smoking, drinking, substance abuse, as sins in the same way that some other religions do -- focusing more on the damage we do to others than on that we do to ourselves. But there is a strong connection in Judaism between the process necessary for ridding ourselves of self-destructive addictive behaviors and stopping the sinful behaviors (such as those listed on Elul 18) which may also arise from deeply ingrained unconscious motives such as fear.
Verbal confession and verbal commitment are emphasized in twelve-step programs, and emphasized in Jewish texts on t'shuvah. Saying things out loud, even when we are our only audience gives power to our resolutions.
So I resolve and state for myself that I will work to pay attention and try to recognize and understand where the fear, panic or impatience is coming from before I open my mouth to say something harsh and hurtful, before I shoot off that e-mail with ALL CAPS, that will hurt someone.