Clergy column: Humanist Jennifer Hancock

April 19, 2014 

Humanism has no concept of redemption.

Your actions have consequences.

If you act badly, you are likely to have bad consequences.

To humanists, that is a fact of life.

We all should choose our actions wisely.

This isn't about karma. It's about accepting reality and taking responsibility for the consequences of your actions, good and bad.

If you act badly, you may seek forgiveness, but there is no way to seek redemption for your bad behavior.

If, after having behaved badly, you don't want people to think poorly of you anymore you can and should apologize to the people you hurt.

But if you want us to trust you again, you have to actually change your behavior and be a better person moving forward.

You may mean well, but unless you act responsibly, ethically and compassionately toward others, you aren't a trustworthy person.

You can complain about how unfair this is all you want but there is no magic way to redeem yourself.

People who act unethically and then are upset other people don't trust them anymore are individuals who have yet to accept the consequences of their actions. They aren't remorseful about their past sins. They are merely upset they aren't being allowed to get away with being bad anymore.

Redeeming yourself requires you to actually change your behavior in the future and do the hard work required to regain people's trust. No magic, just honest hard work.

What people who seek redemption need to understand is people are under no obligation to trust you.

If you want their trust, you have to be worthy of their trust.

And the only way to be worthy of trust, is to be a trustworthy person. Not in words, but in your actual deeds.

If you've screwed up in your past, accept that as your reality. It does not dictate your future. It just means you have hurdles of your own making placed in front of you.

If you blame others for these self-created hurdles, you are not taking responsibility for the consequences of your actions, and you are still not worthy of the trust of others.

The only time you get a clean slate to work from is when you are a baby.

So accept that your past impacts your present.

Accept that in the past you may have screwed up and resolve to do what you need to do to make the future better by being a more trustworthy person.

Don't let your past limit you, but don't pretend it didn't happen either.

I guarantee that if youstart acting ethically, compassionately and responsibly -- the rest of us will notice and start trusting you again.

Find Jennifer Hancock, a Humanist educator and author of several books, at and on twitter@jenthehumanist. Faith Matters is a regular feature of Saturday's Herald, written by local clergy members and one humanist.

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