If we know that we have wronged, how do we make things right?
An essential skill to learn in this world is to rise from the ashes when you get burned. We as human beings have much to work out for the duration of our lives because of the immense amount of learning it takes to cultivate our being. We are destined to screw up sometime, and because of our precarious natures, we bump into forces that give us resistance. Not all of us had been raised by mother Teresa or by the Dalai Lama.
What I haven’t figured out is how do those people with nefarious values and aims fair in life? People that have mistreated others, people who have been arrogant, unkind, selfish, hedonistic, and obtuse can seem to lead extraordinary lives. Maybe it is in the inside that makes them mask and hide as poignantly told by Oscar Wilde’s novel the picture of Dorian Gray.
In Wilde’s novel the character of Dorian Gray is the subject of a full-length portrait in oil by Basil Hallward, an artist who is impressed and infatuated by Dorian’s beauty; he believes that Dorian’s beauty is responsible for the new mode in his art as a painter. Through Basil, Dorian meets Lord Henry Wotton, and he soon is enthralled by the aristocrat’s hedonistic worldview: that beauty and sensual fulfillment are the only things worth pursuing in life. Unlike the academic Faust, the gentleman Dorian makes no deal with the Devil, who is represented by the cynical hedonist Lord Henry, who presents the temptation that will corrupt the virtue and innocence that Dorian possesses at the start of the story. Throughout, Lord Henry appears unaware of the effect of his actions upon the young man; and so frivolously advises Dorian, that “the only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing.”
Understanding that his beauty will fade, Dorian expresses the wish to sell his soul, to make sure that the picture, rather than he, will age and fade. The wish is granted, and Dorian pursues a libertine life of varied and amoral experiences; all the while his portrait ages and records every soul-corrupting sin. Deciding that only full confession will absolve him of wrongdoing, Dorian decides to destroy the last vestige of his conscience. Enraged, he takes the knife with which he murdered Basil Hallward, and stabs the picture. The servants of the house awaken on hearing a cry from the locked room; on the street, passers-by who also heard the cry fetch the police. On entering the locked room, the servants find an unknown old man, stabbed in the heart, his face and figure withered and decrepit. The servants find the disfigured corpse by the rings on his fingers to belong to their master; beside him is the picture of Dorian Gray, reverted to its original beauty.
I wonder if a penance will be paid for the wrong doing of our misdeeds? If for every transgression some part of our soul will be tainted and judged later reflecting in the lives we lead, or if we make amends by reversing prior offenses by living justly and honorably will our previous misconduct be forgiven?
I look only to the good qualities of men. Not being faultless myself, I won’t presume to probe into the faults of others.
I think maybe Mahatma Gandhi was correct. Why worry about these matters if we have the power to file them as they should be filed, out of our consciousness, out of our worry, so that we can free ourselves of any debate about such matters that will only cause us to focus on the wrong part of the equation in human endeavors.
I guess we all have some work to do when we think back on mistakes we have made. Going forward and learning from these mistakes is our intervention to prevent ourselves from repeating the same mistakes over and over if we just pay attention and make amends.
“To err is human, to forgive, divine.”
Classic remorse, as all the moralists are agreed, is a most undesirable sentiment. If you have behaved badly, repent, make what amends you can and address yourself to the task of behaving better next time. On no account brood over your wrongdoing. ROLLING IN THE MUCK IS NOT THE BEST WAY OF GETTING CLEAN.
~ Aldous Huxley (July 26, 1894 – November 22, 1963)
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