T'shuvah can be defined in a variety of ways. Most of the variety of definitions depend on what the definer sees as the "end-game" of t'shuvah. For example, if the end-game of t'shuvah is to scrupulously observe mitzvot (a most worthy sentiment) then t'shuvah can be defined as aligning ones practices with the Torah. Most would consider this a very limiting definition of t'shuvah. I would suggest that any definition of t'shuvah for the Jewish people would inevitably need to hold Torah observance in addition to many other things. Rav Kook and Rav Shaul present both the "end game" and the root purpose of t'shuvah. I have a feeling that their guidance can help us define t'shuvah in a way that expands its role in our lives as well as the range of its impact.
"Penitence was planned before the creation of the world, and it is for this reason the foundation of the world...To nullify the basic nature of life that man shall become a non-sinner--this itself would be the greatest sin...Penitence redresses the defect and restores the world and life to their original character precisely by focusing on the basis of their highest attribute, the dimension of freedom. It is for this reason that God is called the God of life." -Rav Kook translated from Orot HaT'shuvah
If we are to take Rav Kook at his word we know that, whatever we define t'shuvah to be (it is translated here as "penitence"), it is fundamental to the creation of the world and the journey of that creation. Rav Kook goes on to say that the fruit of t'shuvah is the absence of sin and restoration to freedom; t'shuvah is what allows God to be called the God of life. The end-game of t'shuvah then is to uproot sin and fix its damage, as well as to establish freedom and recognition of the God of life. This sounds like something significantly more transformative than simply admitting what we've done wrong, apologizing, and promising to not do it again. While there's value in the nitty-gritty process (and it oughtn't be done away with), it doesn't center attention around what t'shuvah is ultimately doing in our lives, namely: It turns us into "non-sinners" and brings us into complete freedom. The beginning stages of t'shuvah require introspection, but there is ultimately meant to be a shift.
As most of us here are familiar with B'rit Chadasha, it would seem to be quite obvious that Rav Kook's statements about t'shuvah are directly in line with much of the besora (especially according to the Apostles). Becoming a follower of Yeshua is meant to uproot sin out of our lives and bring us into greater freedom. Rav Shaul takes this even a step further:
"Now all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as reflected in a mirror, are transformed into the same image, from one degree of glory to another, as from the perfect spirit of the true Mashiah." -Korinthians Beta 3:18, The Restored New Testament, Barnstone
We are being transformed into the image of Yeshua! The quintessential act of t'shuvah according to Rav Shaul is immersion in Yeshua and living into our transformation into his glory. This is far from introspection; this is a shift from looking at our own image and becoming obsessed with his and being aware that his is the destination of ours.
The literal meaning of "t'shuvah" comes from the verb, "to turn."
So...I offer for our consideration...
Complete t'shuvah is turning away from our own sin, and toward the face of Yeshua, whose glory we manifest more and more each day. The fruit of t'shuvah is the revelation of God's glory in our lives. I am convinced that with this as our "end-game" our t'shuvah will transform more than our own behavior; it will make us Olam Haba (The Coming Kingdom) operating within Olam Hazeh (This World)...
Now that we have a definition of what t'shuvah ultimately is and does, we are better equipped to explore how to draw closer to its fullness during the month of Elul....