I believe everyone seeks redemption to some extent. Pursuant to my essay from yesterday, we’ve all got regrets; acknowledging and learning from our mistakes is healthy. Sometimes we get the opportunity to right our wrongs and make good on our failed promises; most often, we do not get the chance. It’s this pursuit of redemption, I think, that is the cause of much human anxiety and stress.
There’s a multi-billion dollar industry attached to redeeming one’s self. Whether we wish to undo our laziness through crash dieting or affect our demeanor with daily affirmations and mantras, we all want to change things about ourselves. Altering the physical self, or at least attempting to alter it, seems to be the most prevalent. The subject of dieting, exercising, and cosmetic surgery is worthy of an essay all its own, but today I want to discuss the redemption we seek for our perceived transgressions against other people.
I try to treat everyone fairly and equitably, my actions bear this out for the most part. However, upon reflection, I don’t recall the times I’ve done someone else a good turn, but the times I have hurt others. The kid I needlessly picked on in high school. The gut-wrenching sob of a woman I broke up with. These are the moments for which I wish I could be forgiven. To apologize now would be derogatory, doubtless many of the people involved don’t recall me as well as I recall them. Still, I wish I could make amends.
My problem, which I think is common, is that I have sought redemption in other people. Not by unburdening myself, but by tailoring my relationships with them to undo the bad deeds I think I’ve done. “This time will be different, this time I will do the right thing.” The Right Thing usually involves suppressing part of myself or pretending to be something I’m not–perhaps attempting to be a person that I aspire to be. The problem with looking for redemption in another person is twofold: one, no person can forgive someone for the mistakes that only he perceives, and two, in forgoing the present to remedy the past, another interpersonal relationship is screwed up as the other person interacts with a misconception, a phantom of what might have been rather than what actually is.
I am speaking for myself, for my own tendencies, but I don’t think I’m alone. And if I’m not alone, if people reading this have made similar missteps, then what we’ve got is a cyclical do-sa-do of people fooling themselves and one another ad infinitum. I’ve sought redemption in other people, but I don’t want to. I don’t want to need that. I don’t want to mortgage my future because I can’t let go of the past. I apologize to anyone I’ve hurt in my life. But I can’t carry that spectral guilt anymore.