Repent all ye sinners!
It would be nice if it was that easy, but it would have no meaning whatsoever. In today's society, it has become almost automatic to say "sorry" out of politeness, even when you don;t feel sorry at all. Other people simply don't bother to ever admit mistakes (see Dick Cheney for reference) and simply lie and deny until accept as a pseudo-truism.
The fact is that repentance is not just a act between you and G-d, or you and society, but most importantly, it is between you and you. If you err, then admit the mistake, correct it and learn from the experience. Screwing up is a wonderful teacher.
When some of my staff screw up they automatically say "sorry" as if that word holds some magic to undo the wrong and while it does take the first step, there is usually no underlying sense of urgency for them to make things right. No act of contrition, no act of atonement and no real admission of guilt.
So, they make the same mistakes time and again.
My daughter is almost five years old, but already knows the difference between right and wrong for the most part and when she makes a mistake, she apologises and corrects it. Needless to say, she seldom makes the same mistake twice.
Neither I, nor my wife, ever spank her because there is no need. After a mistake and the subsequent correction and apology, my daughter will usually present either my wife or I with a gift - usually a drawing she made.
That is a perfect example of an act of contrition and atonement because it comes from the heart.
I cannot speak for other religions or other people, but in my view, having been brought up Jewish, we have been taught to accept responsibility for our actions. Nobody puts a gun to our head and says "screw-up!", this is something we do all by ourselves, either intentionally or unintentionally.
Either way, we are responsible for our actions and must atone for mistakes. If we hurt another person, we must try to make things right. If we violate the laws of society, we must accept whatever punishment goes with it.
We must atone.
Unfortunately, society as a whole seems to have developed a poor mindset and now believe it is acceptable to lie and deny to escape blame. In basketball, one player shoves his elbow into the face of an opponent on national TV, then looks at the referee with a "who me?" astonished expression. To compound matters, that player will carry on like a child whining about how he got screwed by the referee.
Sadly, both adults and children watch this and think it is acceptable.
Repentance earned through atonement is a way for you to make things right within yourself and sends a signal to others that you accept your mistake and are prepared to learn from it. In most cases, people will give you a second chance, even federal judges in some cases, like if you hurt someone but immediately accept blame and start taking steps to make things right with the injured party, the judge will view your case in a better light.
Now, if we could only get our politicians on both sides of the aisle to admit and learn from their mistakes...
Causes Robert Bicknell Supports
Any legitimate charity which benefits children.