Repentance: A Useless Emotion?

Repentance: A Useless Emotion?

Repentance: A Useless Emotion?

Last update: 13 March, 2015

"I have committed the worst of sins a man can commit. I was not happy. May the glaciers of oblivion overwhelm and disperse me, mercilessly".

Thus begins the poem Il remorso, written by Jorge Luis Borges. Already from these first lines you can understand how heavy the sensation we feel when we know we have done something that was not right.

In these first lines, Borges regrets having let his happiness slip away. He happens to everyone, throughout the day, to be the protagonists of actions that generate a feeling of discomfort and heaviness. There are also other kinds of remorse, minor worries that simply remind us that we have acted contrary to our principles: if we are on a diet and eat a dessert, for example, a feeling of guilt immediately invades us for having taken in more calories than we should.

Remorse is a feeling often associated with another emotion, that of repentance. We all make mistakes and regret them, but there are cases where the sense of guilt becomes such a great emotional burden that it negatively interferes in our personal well-being or in the relationships we have with others.

There are other authors, such as Wayne Dyer, who instead describe guilt as a useful emotion. Dyer believes that "the sense of guilt leads to wasting the moments of the present, because it immobilizes us due to past behavior". For this reason, proposes to transform the sense of guilt into a lesson that leads us to learn from the mistakes of the past: in this way we will not remain motionless through his fault, but we will be able to find a solution for this situation that generates us discomfort.

Apologize or wash your hands of it?

It is possible to remedy these negative feelings, but it depends on the circumstances. Not all actions have the same consequences and some are more harmful than others; but we always have the option of apologizing and repairing, in part, the damage done. It is important to take responsibility for our actions, because it will always be better to accept that we were wrong than to blame someone else.

However, there are people who seem capable of clear their conscience simply using soap and water. You will all remember the scene of Pontius Pilate, who after making the decision to send Jesus to death, washes his hands. According to an experiment carried out by a group of researchers from the University of Michigan in the United States, this act can really help relieve guilt. It seems that, from the results of the study, washing with soap and water helps to reduce the discomfort that causes us to have acted in a way contrary to our principles.

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