Repentance and good deeds are as a shield against retribution. (Avot 4:11)

There are two kinds of arousal to repentance and the worship of the L-rd: In one instance, a person is originally stirred and inspired by himself to repentance. Subsequently he is aided from above [from the heavenly realm], in keeping with the rule that "when someone comes to purity himself, he is helped." The second type does not give any thought by himself to return in repentance or do some good deed; it is only when he is aroused initially from above that he is moved and inspired below [on earth] to achieve repentance.

If the desire for repentance is initiated Below…the result is in the mode of kindness….

From my master and teacher [the Baal Shem Tov] of blessed memory I heard what the actual difference is between these two kinds of arousal…If the desire for repentance is initiated Below [in the earthly realm], which is of the Female [receptive] principle, and then aid comes from Above [the heavenly realm], which is of the Male [active] principle, the result is in the mode of kindness. If the inspiration to repentance comes in reverse order, the result is in the mode of strict judgment.

Hence Scripture says of Yom Kippur, "For on this day atonement shall be made for you…"; (Lev.16:30) this implies that, initially, even if they will not be stirred to repentance of themselves, they will be inspired from Above, so as "…to cleanse you from all your sins." (ibid.) But will be more for you that before G‑d you shall cleanse yourself; (ibid.) this means that before the L-rd inspires you, cleanse yourselves initially, on your own initiative. In this vein the Talmud says, "Happy, fortunate are you, O Israel, considering before Whom you are cleansed and purified." (Yoma 85b) It means that beforehand, initially, you begin cleansing and purifying yourselves, of your own accord - hence in the realm of the Female principle. Afterward, "Who cleanses you?… your Father in heaven" - Hence in the Male principle....resulting in kindness….

[From Tzavaat Harivash (Kehot), Toldot Yaakov Yosef, Shabbat Shuva]