Since the beginning of time people have committed wrongful acts for which there are varying levels of punishment.  When a wrongful act is committed for whatever reason, society gives that person a chance to redeem themselves – to atone for their crime or their guilt.


At a young age we are taught the difference between right and wrong.  We are told that there are consequences for our actions.  There can be personal rewards for doing the right thing or punishment when we do the wrong thing.  We first have to make sure that the person understands right from wrong.  Once this is determined only then can we decide how to take corrective measures to prevent this from happening again.  How do we redeem ourselves or accept someone else’s redemption?  Are we able to be objective and accepting or are we subjective and stand in judgment of the person’s actions?  Let’s look at some examples.


A little child hits his brother and is given a time out to think about what he has done.  Hopefully, the time out is a success and the child apologizes to his brother and learned a lesson from this.


A student taking a test decides to copy off of the person next to him, but it appears he does not get caught.  However, the person next to him realizes what happened and confronts the student.  The student has the choice to report his actions to the teacher or deny the accusation.  He chooses to deny it, but the action weighs heavy on his mind and weeks later he decides to confess.  He apologizes, but the teacher fails the student.  Has the student truly made amends for his actions or did he confess because he knew he was caught?  One may never know.


These are somewhat minor incidences on the scale of wrongful acts.  Even though an appropriate course of action was taken, we may never know if the person in question was fazed by this, or if he continued on his way to more bolder wrongful acts.  Redemption is assumed as a one time occurrence, but never really determined to be the case.


Let’s say that the crime is now considered to be planned – premeditated.  The path to redemption appears to be a hard walk.  The person who committed the wrongful act feels remorse and carries the burden of guilt.  Can this person be redeemed if the action was done on purpose?


For instance:  one sister is jealous of the other and she goes after her sister’s boyfriend.  She entices him into an affair to prove she is the better girl for him.  She does not take into account her sister’s feelings and how much this will hurt her.  In fact she takes pleasure by doing so.  She feels she has the advantage for once in her life.  This severs her relationship with her sister and they have not spoken to one another for ten years or more.  The jealous sister is now alone.  The boy never stayed and she lost a sister in the process.  As she ages, she realizes how much damage she caused and wants to redeem herself in her sister’s eyes.  Her health is failing and she wants to clear her conscience.  She wants to make amends and become a better sister.


She decides to take ownership of what she did and sends a letter to her sister apologizing for her actions.  The guilt eats away at her and she does not know if her sister will forgive her or talk to her again.  The letter comes back.  She is determined to mend fences and sets out to go visit her sister.  Again, she is turned away, but she still needs to settle this matter.  She vows no matter how hard or how long this will take, she will reconnect with her sister.  Can she be redeemed?


My last example is about a man who is caught between a rock and a hard place.  He commits an act he never thought he would.  He leans on self-preservation and a life is taken as a result of self-protection.  He never meant or set out to kill someone, but it was either his survival or the intruders.  The incident is ruled as self-defense, but that does not eliminate his guilt.  He took a life and this has profoundly changed him.  He prays and asks for forgiveness.  He tries to forgive himself.  He waits for his community to accept him again.  He is still waiting and still trying to “fit in”. He is haunted by what he did.  Is he able to find redemption for himself?  Does he need to?


There are no clear cut answers to any of this.  Only we know ourselves.  No one can atone for us or decide if we can be redeemed.  We have to look within and decide if we want to be redeemed and then we have to set ourselves on a path to achieve this.


As a society, we expect people to redeem themselves after they have committed wrongful acts, but we cannot foist our expectations onto others.  They have to carry this with them and they have to find resolution on their own.


I believe in redemption and I believe everyone makes mistakes from time to time.  It is how we recognize the mistake and handle it that makes the difference.  With that in mind, I also believe in second chances.  I know I have had a few over the years and I am grateful for that.

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