Remorse Is What Turns Evil Into Good

Remorse Is What Turns Evil Into Good

We don't regret bad things we did to pay a price - no. That price is often never something we're capable of paying. We regret to learn, become better people, and turn the suffering we inflicted into hope, and ultimately to turn evil into good.

Ryan Fan
Ryan Fan

We are all human and do bad things. We feel bad for these bad things we did. Remorse is a healthy response, but self-condemnation is not. Remorse is defined as "deep regret or guilt for a wrong committed," while self-condemnation is defined as "the act or an instance of condemning one's own character or actions." For the bad things I've done in my life, I go back and forth between the two, and I am also writing this article to see how to waver more so on the side of remorse than self-condemnation.

Self-condemnation, to me, is the feeling that you're not good enough, that you should be something you currently are not. In a spiritual context, for those that are religious, self-condemnation is the act of putting yourself in the position of God. Why? According to Christine Hoover, "the Holy Spirit convicts - we don't convict ourselves." When we convict ourselves, it makes us center on ourselves. "I'm not good enough," "I need to try harder and be better at this," or "my past mistakes define me" are examples of this kind of self-conviction. We are not meant to go to the cross. Jesus did. It is almost a point of arrogance and pride to wallow extensively in our shame and try to pay Christ's shame ourselves.

But enough of theology - another point against self-condemnation is the fact that we rarely tell other people they should condemn themselves. So why should we do it for ourselves? Lara D'entremont writes that "when we wish the sadness would go away, we murmur to ourselves that we deserve it. It's almost as if we believe that self-condemnation helps pay the price for the sin. We make it more forgivable by suffering for it." Naturally, self-condemnation is extremely self-centered.

All of us know this, but how do we stop ourselves from our often natural inclination to condemn ourselves? Even though the line between the two isn't as thick as this article may put it, the answer is remorse.

Remorse is the ability to humble oneself and healthily repent for past mistakes. For example, we often feel remorse not only for the consequences of our actions, but also the intentions behind them. Few can argue that cheating on a partner comes with good intentions. When you condemn yourself, you do not forgive yourself. But when you feel remorse, you can take responsibility for your actions and forgive yourself simultaneously. And it's also important to differentiate between forgiving yourself and letting yourself off the hook: the difference is whether you take responsibility.

Again, I waver between the two and go back and forth all the time. Sometimes I really do internalize that some things I've done are so bad that I deserve the cross, and that feeling is a terrible offshoot of remorse. But the difference between a good and bad person, I've been told, is the ability to feel remorse for bad actions in the first place. It's a lot easier not to feel remorse if you can and not take any responsibility for your actions. After all, Thomas Hobbes once said that life is "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short," so there will always be a part of ourselves that may question whether we should have consciences and feel remorse for our past misdeeds in the first place.

So what should we do when we feel remorse? Famous psychologist Phillip Zimbardo, the architect behind the highly controversial and questionably unethical Stanford Prison Experiment, instructs us to "take a few deep breaths and examine why you created this past negative experience...Realize that what's done is done and while you can't change the past, you can choose not to recreate the situation in the future by working through your experiences in the present." Remorse is a wonderful emotion in that when we feel it so strongly, and not to the point of condemning ourselves, we are pushing ourselves to vow that we will never make the mistake again.

With remorse, we always learn important lessons, and that emotion, however painful it is to feel, is the fuel we use to turn shit into gold, evil into good. According to Zimbardo, we can always be thankful not for the mistakes we made or the ways we hurt others profoundly, but the lessons we learned in the aftermath. "We have the opportunity to learn from it and live through it. We can choose to become a better, more enlightened person and create for ourselves a brighter, kinder, more compassionate future."

So to feel remorse instead of its cancerous offshoot in self-condemnation, we need to remind ourselves that life goes on regardless of the decisions we make. Just wallowing in our shame isn't allowing life to go on, but rather an attempt to be Jesus. The goal isn't to be Jesus Christ when we think about our past mistakes. The goal is to be more like Jesus, because there are always going to be millions of ways we fall short of being God. We don't regret bad things we did to pay a price - no. That price is often never something we're capable of paying. We regret to learn, become better people, and turn the suffering we inflicted into hope, and ultimately to turn evil into good.

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Austin Alexander Burridge, Volunteer Advocate, Shares 3 Great Reasons to Volunteer and Help Others

Austin Alexander Burridge is an avid academic who studies Environmental Science at Winona State University and believes that work in the service of others is a key pillar to personal development.


Sometimes it's easy for someone to adopt a "me, me, me" attitude. While focusing on oneself, a person may feel nice in the moment, but serving and helping others will bring lasting benefits. While there are many great reasons to serve and help others, there are three universal truths that resonate with volunteers around the globe.

Austin Alexander Burridge's 3 Reasons to Volunteer:

1. Accomplishment

Often, people fall into a trap of focusing on themselves when they are feeling down. Maybe someone did not get a job they wanted. Or perhaps a person gets dumped by an expected lifelong companion. Maybe someone feels they have underachieved after looking at Facebook and seeing great things a high school classmate has accomplished. When feeling down, helping others is a proven way to improve one's mood and attitude, and it can provide a sense of pride and accomplishment. The act of giving to those in need is an inherently good action and leaves people with a wonderful feeling of joy.

2. Gratitude

One can become more appreciative of life by serving others that have less. Whether volunteering at a soup kitchen, visiting the elderly at an assisted living center, or helping families after a natural disaster, service enables people to be grateful for what they have. Seeing people who have fewer advantages, especially those who are spirited and thankful for small things, allows one to realize just how fortunate he/she is in life.

3. Friendships

Volunteering is a great way to build meaningful friendships, not only with other volunteers but also with those who are served. One of the most profound and fascinating aspects of these relationships is how volunteers will learn from those served and vice versa. As these special bonds are built, they lead to impactful connections that last for years to come.

Of course, these are just a few reasons to volunteer and serve others. One can never go wrong by helping others as opposed to merely focusing on oneself. Volunteering invariably and inevitably contributes to personal growth, development, and satisfaction.

About Austin Alexander Burridge: Helping others has been of paramount importance to Austin, and as a part of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), Austin gave back to the community around him. He also has participated in annual peanut butter drives, The Minnesota Sandwich Project for the Homeless and collected canned goods for local food shelters. Additionally, Austin has a passion for the environment, which he pursued when visiting the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, and the Amazon Rain Forest while studying at the School of Environment Studies, which investigates ecological systems and their sustainability

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Saying You "Don't Take Political Stances" IS A Political Stance

All you're doing by saying this is revealing your privilege to not care politically, and here's why that's a problem.


I'm sure all of us know at least one person who refuses to engage in political discussions - sure, you can make the argument that there is a time and a place to bring up the political happenings of our world today, but you can't possibly ignore it all the time. You bring up the last ridiculous tweet our president sent or you try to discuss your feelings on the new reproductive regulation bills that are rising throughout the states, and they find any excuse to dip out as quickly as possible. They say I don't talk about politics, or I'm apolitical. Well everyone, I'm here to tell you why that's complete bullsh*t.

Many people don't have the luxury and privilege of ignoring the political climate and sitting complacent while terrible things happen in our country. So many issues remain a constant battle for so many, be it the systematic racism that persists in nearly every aspect of our society, the fact that Flint still doesn't have clean water, the thousands of children that have been killed due to gun violence, those drowning in debt from unreasonable medical bills, kids fighting for their rights as citizens while their families are deported and separated from them... you get the point. So many people have to fight every single day because they don't have any other choice. If you have the ability to say that you just don't want to have anything to do with politics, it's because you aren't affected by any failing systems. You have a privilege and it is important to recognize it.

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "history will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people."

We recognize that bad people exist in this world, and we recognize that they bring forth the systems that fail so many people every single day, but what is even more important to recognize are the silent majority - the people who, by engaging in neutrality, enable and purvey the side of the oppressors by doing nothing for their brothers and sisters on the front lines.

Maybe we think being neutral and not causing conflict is supposed to be about peacekeeping and in some way benefits the political discussion if we don't try to argue. But if we don't call out those who purvey failing systems, even if it's our best friend who says something homophobic, even if it's our representatives who support bills like the abortion ban in Alabama, even if it's our president who denies the fact that climate change is killing our planet faster than we can hope to reverse it, do we not, in essence, by all accounts of technicality side with those pushing the issues forward? If we let our best friend get away with saying something homophobic, will he ever start to change his ways, or will he ever be forced to realize that what he's said isn't something that we can just brush aside? If we let our representatives get away with ratifying abortion bans, how far will the laws go until women have no safe and reasonable control over their own bodily decisions? If we let our president continue to deny climate change, will we not lose our ability to live on this planet by choosing to do nothing?

We cannot pander to people who think that being neutral in times of injustice is a reasonable stance to take. We cannot have sympathy for people who decide they don't want to care about the political climate we're in today. Your attempts at avoiding conflict only make the conflict worse - your silence in this aspect is deafening. You've given ammunition for the oppressors who take your silence and apathy and continue to carry forth their oppression. If you want to be a good person, you need to suck it up and take a stand, or else nothing is going to change. We need to raise the voices of those who struggle to be heard by giving them the support they need to succeed against the opposition.

With all this in mind, just remember for the next time someone tells you that they're apolitical: you know exactly which side they're on.


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