In an effort to distinguish godly sorrow from worldly sorrow, Thomas Watson puts forth several qualifications for godly sorrow in his book, The Doctrine of Repentance:
i. Godly sorrow is inward—It is an inward, heart sorrow that manifests itself externally; godly sorrow is not merely weeping (Judas, Esau) nor a gloomy disposition. It is also a sorrow over the fact that the heart has sinful inclinations, even if they never blossom into sinful actions.
ii. Godly sorrow is sincere—“It is sorrow for the offence rather than for the consequence, even the consequence of guilt. Godly sorrow is a result of thoughts like this: “Oh that I should offend so good a God, that I should grieve my Comforter! This breaks my heart!” (Ps. 51:4a—against you only have a sinned)
iii. Godly sorrow is faith-filled—“As our sin is ever before us, so God’s promise must be ever before us,” therefore godly sorrow does not end with despair, but a confident resolve to battle even harder. The fact that we are not condemned in Christ gives us hope and certainty in the fight.
iv. Godly sorrow is a great sorrow—“sorrow for sin must surpass worldly sorrow…We need to find as much bitterness in sorrow for sin as we ever found sweetness in committing it.”
v. Godly sorrow is restorative—if we have wronged others by our sin, we should be quick to reconcile and make things right—Luke 19:8 Zacchaeus said to the Lord, Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house… Salvation was evident in Zacchaeus’ restorative actions of his repentance.
vi. Godly sorrow is abiding—“true sorrow must be habitual since the disease of our souls is chronic and frequently turns upon us.” Godly sorrow is not a one-time transaction, but a lifestyle. So how do we know when we have enough sorrow? “The Christian has arrived at a sufficient measure of sorrow when the love of sin is purged out.” One will simply never rid himself of something he still even slightly loves.