Of course the immortal words of Frank Sinatra in My Way but are they true for everyone?
There is great pressure from society to feel sorry, make amends, apologise, confess etc. but is this a natural phenomenon or simply an imposition put on us in the name of “civilisation”?
When the population was smaller and life not so dependant on the strictures of the modern world, wrong-doers could simply walk away or were banished as punishment. People had trades and skills that were easily transferrable regardless of geographical location – a shoe-maker could make shoes anywhere and barter them for food and lodgings. No need to worry about paying the bills or not having an internet connection.
So going back to the original question, are people really sorry for acts they do that break the law or upset/harm others or are they simply sorry they get caught?
We have definitons for people who feel or act this way now. They are a sociopath or have a diminished sense of responsilbilty… But are the truly contrite really that?
Think about yourself. How many times have you said sorry simply to get along or make yourself feel better? Were you really “sorry” and regretted your actions or did you just want/need to improve your situation?
Take the case of a criminal facing a lengthy jail sentence. His defence lawyer will urge them to appear sorry and regret their actions and in many cases even “school” them in how to act in front of a jury in order to gain their sympathy and hopefully convice a judge to be more lenient in sentencing. This is not a fool-proof tactic and may even backfire if the crocodile tears are seen for what they are but I think there is little doubt that it can work if done convincingly.
Even in normal everyday life this deception happens on a daily basis. When you bump into someone on the street both parties will say sorry and therefore assume responsibilty but in reality how often are each thinking that the other person is a clumsy idiot?
Of course many people express remorse and probably do believe that they do feel it but are they really upset or just angry at themselves that they got caught out and therefore may lose something they don’t want to, whether be it respect, a spouse and family or their liberty?
It’s an interesting question and one that intrigues me. I’ve done my own soul searching and have no real answer as regards my own feelings. I sometimes wish I had been raised a catholic and could shed my burdens in the confessional but again is that a true path to redemption or simply a simple mechanism to enable the confessor lead a guilt-free life no matter the transgression? That one I’ll have to leave to the religious academics…