Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz writes:
The awareness of the need for change may come upon us suddenly, as if someone shined a bright light into our eyes in the middle of the night and wrenched us out of a deep sleep.
Or it may develop over time, like a sunrise that wakes us gradually, so that we cannot pinpoint exactly what time it was when our surroundings became clearly visible.
It may emerge as a pervasive feeling of sinfulness, or it may reflect a more nagging sense that we are just not living up to what we expect of ourselves.
How do we deal with this feeling?
We can try to ignore it, as we might ignore a splinter that causes us sharp pain, but only now and then.
Or we can decide to look at it carefully and remove it, knowing that it will hurt more right now, but it will not cause us pain in the future.
If we want to remove this feeling of disquiet, we must look into our hearts and ask hard questions:
What have we done wrong?
What have we neglected to do?
I am not talking about criminal acts; we do not have to look too hard to find them.
I am talking about everyday transgressions:
Have we misled our customers?
Spread rumors about our neighbors?
Showed disrespect to our parents?
Spoken too harshly to our children?
Whatever we have done, we must be willing to look at it and let ourselves experience a feeling of regret.
–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz