Backous on Remorse

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Are we to understand that saying we’re sorry is appropriate only
because it’s the correct legal or political posture? Can’t genuine
human sorrow and embarrassment be seen as a strength?

Spoiler title
What ever happened to remorse? The dictionary tells us it means “a
deep and painful feeling of sorrow or regret.” These days it seems
that to feel remorse is to show weakness, to admit guilt and,
therefore, to fold under pressure. It seems a better strategy to go on
the defensive. Blame others. Blame society if you must but for God’s
sake, don’t show anyone that you’re sorry for what you did! Those with
power should never be remorseful.

Are we to understand that saying we’re sorry is appropriate only
because it’s the correct legal or political posture? Can’t genuine
human sorrow and embarrassment be seen as a strength?

William Cowper once said, “Remorse begets reform.” The Monica Lewinsky
affair has taught us all kinds of lessons about the way we honor an
office such as the Presidency, how we respect the covenant of
marriage, how we deplore the misuse of power and sexuality and how to
address these problems when they arise again as no doubt they will.
But I sincerely hope it has not taught us to fear remorse – for that
would signal the end of reconciliation and rebirth. Hopefully, the
kinds of trouble we fall into will not necessitate public confessions
on national TV but even if it’s in the quiet and safe privacy of a
confessional, or simply looking into the eyes of someone we’ve
wronged, we grow stronger as human beings when we are able to say “I’m
sorry.”

Father Timothy Backous
1999

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Topics: Tim Backous

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