I loved reading this article this morning. Someone created a site where you can go on anonymously and confess your crimes. This site seems bent towards many postings of inconsistent treatment based on skin color and socioeconomic background, but includes all kinds of postings. But what an intriguing notion.
Are we all really criminals? We think of criminals as being very bad people, but who hasn’t at some time broken the letter of the law, whether it was a legal, religious, or cultural law?
It certainly raises an interesting concept. Are we criminals by what we do, or only if we’re caught? Are we criminals only if the law convicts us? We do all break many laws on many days. When we go beyond the speed limit, we’re breaking the law. When we speed up instead of stopping when the light turns yellow? When we tell a homeless beggar we have nothing to spare, or no spare change? When we coveted something our neighbor has? When we lusted after someone we weren’t supposed to have those feelings for? When we cursed or blamed someone for something that was really our fault? When I looked at the majority of the contributions on the daily good site, many of the people who had done things to hurt others in their youth were doing something good for humanity in their careers. Their childhood or teenage or young adult indiscretions fashioned who they became as adults. But others honestly shared they felt no remorse, no guilt, no need to give back somehow or change.
There are two things that ultimately matter. If we don’t get caught, then the “crime” is not public and technically never occurred, except that we know we did it. So the most important part is how we feel about our past mistakes. If you’ve been carrying around something for years you feel guilty about, what can you do about it? In AA, one of the steps is to make retribution to those we’ve hurt, at the very least, to apologize to them for past behavior. Yet receiving an apology doesn’t always make the injured party feel better. We have to live with our errors. Acknowledging them to ourselves is probably more important than acknowledging them to others, because the greatest forgiveness we need is the one to ourselves.
I feel that one of the biggest mistakes we humans make is assuming everyone is better than us, everyone is more together than we are, and everyone else is happier or has more than we have. It is never helpful to compare ourselves to others, but it’s worse to do so assuming that someone who is beautiful or rich has an easier life than you have. If you’re reading this you already know that people assume things about your life whether they are true or not. You get a job and go to work each day, and sometimes you’re not sure you know what you’re doing. Sometimes you might hate your job and everyone there. Sometimes you might feel that way about life because you’re hurting. We go about our lives and pass hundreds of people every day. We don’t know whose husband just left them, who just suffered a miscarriage, who might have just lost their home, who just recovered from breast reconstruction. Keeping up appearances is important, because it helps us get through and survive hard times. So here we are, we’re all flawed, and we’re also all criminals who were lucky enough not to get caught. Can you find it in your heart to forgive yourself? Can you find it in your heart to be more compassionate towards those who were less fortunate and did get caught? The more compassionate you are, the more understanding and compassionate you will be with others. But you won’t have much to give if you’re too afraid to let others see who you really are. So embrace yourself with all your flaws, forgive all your crimes because no one among us is innocent of never hurting another human. Most importantly, forgive yourself. Guilt just becomes another piece of baggage to carry, and the load is already heavy enough.