View Full Version : How do you know if someone's really remorseful?


aba
11-08-2009, 03:18 PM
In America, it's obvious we believe in second chances. Even third and fourth. People throughout history have made 'comebacks' from regrettable decisions and even catastrophic occurances. Ted Kennedy, Michael Vick, Robert Downey Jr. are just some names that pop into my head.

In the criminal justice system, you often hear references to, "is the person remorseful or sorry for what they've done." Especially I would assume when people are evaluating others for parole, or a judge considering leniency. The question I ask is how does one determine the sincerity of somebody's expression of remorse and contrition?

For those who offer opinions, be weary of confusing 'self-pity' for true remorse. It's so easy to wallow in self-pity, and in my opinion, that would be a 'cop-out.' I think I can describe how I tell the difference between the two, but perhaps this is more of an individual type thing that you have to take on a case by case basis.

When you awaken in the middle of the night because of overwhelming thoughts of things you've done that have affected others, you are perhaps reflecting on what you've done. When you can't sleep because you're haunted or overwhelmed with guilt, I believe that on your own terms, you're genuinely remorseful. When you try and demonstrate in daily life a different attitude or behavior pattern that your friends, co-workers, and/or family have seen in the past, I think that too is symbolic of genuine. What do you think? What's real and what's not? Try and stay true to the topic here, this thread wasn't created by me to seek sympathy, forgiveness or understanding for anything....that's self-pity.

Adams Lady
11-08-2009, 03:36 PM
I think that we ALL make mistakes, some make bigger mistakes than others, but in the end, they are all mistakes. It's all in how you handle it, and how you try to fix things that shows your true character. Unfortunately, many times it takes huge consequences in order for a person to see that they have done wrong, and that is when they show remorse for their actions. I think you have hit the nail on the head in your different actions of showing remorse. When you do something bad, it's hard as hell to crawl out of that hole, and shine again, but I think when a person is truly remorseful for their actions, they will persevere and do anything in their power to prove that they truly are a good person, and they are willing to take the hard route, instead of the easy route of either, still commiting those actions, or self pity.

Daywalker
11-08-2009, 03:50 PM
I believe that actions speak louder than words. I know that sounds trite and cliche, but for me, I am a watcher. Saying "I'm sorry" or telling me how sorry you are just won't feed the bulldog. For me, I have to see it. I don't mean gifts, flowers, etc. I mean, change the actions that caused you to need to be apologetic/remorseful.

It's all too easy to let that apology just roll off the tongue, hoping that the listener will forgive. I know that I probably seem hard and cold, but having been there, I have to see the actions change. It's like saying "I love you" - you can say those three words to me all day long, but if you're dogging other women, looking at porn on the 'net, and everything in a skirt catches your eye; clearly you are either misguided about what love is, or it's not me you love. I feel the same about apologies.

ItalianHitGirl
11-08-2009, 04:16 PM
I think it depends on what we're showing remorse for, and what our relationship is with those we've wronged and the magnitude of the crime. For example before he went into the hospital, I accused my son of doing something my daughter actually did. He denied it and I didn't believe him. He had to go in a time out. My daughter came home, admitted to the crime, and SHE went into the time out. Now I'm left with, how do I show my son that I am SO sorry I refused to listen to him? I felt like crap for treating him that way. Well, we have a relationship based on trust. There is a solid foundation there. I appologized profusely and gave him 10 extra minutes to play at bedtime to make up for the 10 minutes I'd robbed from his day. Because he trusts me and knows I'd never intentionally hurt him, because he knows if I say, "sorry", I mean it. He forgave me easily. Also, because I rarely do anything to him that I need to appologize for, he knows we're all imperfect and we all make little mistakes and need forgiveness. Also, this was a relatively minor crime. I didn't murder anyone. So in that instance, I think an appology was sufficient for me to gain redemption.

Now, if someone is hurting you left, right, and sideways, and it's just the norm for your relationship, then saying "sorry" after each time they mess up wouldn't be an adequate way to display sincere remorse. If they were truly sorry for hurting you, they wouldn't keep doing it. So, an "I'm sorry" wouldn't seem to suffice. We don't (or shouldn't) trust people who continually hurt us so we have no reason to trust that they're sorry when they say they are. If they went to counciling and worked hard on their issues and educated themselves on how to have a healthy relationship whereby they didn't keep hurting you, THAT would show remorse and sincerity about wanting to turn aside from their wrong behavior.

Also, if it is of a larger magnitude, I think remorse can be displayed by actions (or lack thereof). My ex went to jail for using drugs. He wrote me letter after letter saying how sorry he was, begging for forgiveness, and promising to stop. I know how addiction works and I didn't buy it (see? trust. and I didn't trust him not to use again so I didn't buy his "sorry". if he was sorry, he'd stop). I told him that his actions would show his remorse. Graduate rehab, stay clean for at least a year, and stay out of jail. THAT will show me that you're sincerely sorry about using drugs and going back to jail. He wouldn't do any of it. How sorry could he have possibly have been about his crime if he wasn't willing to make up for it by proving to us with ACTION that he was staying as far away from the drug life as possible to make sure it never happened again?

akaptrosa
11-08-2009, 04:26 PM
I don't think there ever is really a way to know what is in a person's heart. I can honestly think of something in my life that I am remorseful for and if you looked at my actions....it wouldn't look like it. No one can tell me I wasn't remorseful, because I was, it's just the sin in me overtakes the situation. (that's the best way I can describe it.) I'm sure the drug addict who is remorseful and swears off never to do drugs again, means it and is sorry at that time. The addiction takes over and they relapse. I also believe the drug addict who claimed they were remorseful and meant it, (even tho they relapsed) could very well be more remorseful in their heart than someone who admitted their wrong and continued on in the correct path. Only GOD knows our hearts.

cblueiis
11-08-2009, 04:31 PM
I think remorse comes from within the individual in that although there is a textbook. Some people come here to confess which could be a way of expressing one's remorse. I don't believe we can lump remorse into 1 category....no it is not self-pity I would agree. How do we know if someone else is remorseful? We don't unless we know the person extremely well, they demonstrate remorse, and/or they live a differing life from what they had before.

dwfighterva
11-08-2009, 05:05 PM
I feel there is a difference in knowing what you are doing is wrong and if it is accidental. Remorse comes from realizing you made a mistake without knowing you did wrong and feeling guilty your actions caused someone pain. Self-pity comes from getting caught doing wrong when you knew it was wrong and the bad feeling is because you got caught.

aba
11-08-2009, 05:20 PM
I feel there is a difference in knowing what you are doing is wrong and if it is accidental. Remorse comes from realizing you made a mistake without knowing you did wrong and feeling guilty your actions caused someone pain. Self-pity comes from getting caught doing wrong when you knew it was wrong and the bad feeling is because you got caught.

so what word or words do you use to describe knowing you did wrong and feeling guilty for breaking the law and causing pain....whether that be an innocent victim or your family who inevitably serves the sentence along side of you (in most cases?)

CoNpal
11-08-2009, 05:42 PM
i know when somebody is remorseful by their behavior.

ItalianHitGirl
11-08-2009, 06:53 PM
I feel there is a difference in knowing what you are doing is wrong and if it is accidental. Remorse comes from realizing you made a mistake without knowing you did wrong and feeling guilty your actions caused someone pain. Self-pity comes from getting caught doing wrong when you knew it was wrong and the bad feeling is because you got caught.

I think I get what you are saying. So do you mean that one can only be remorseful if they mistakenly did wrong but were unaware that it was wrong or that it was causing someone pain when they did it? And if someone knowingly does wrong, and later feels bad about it, then that's self-pity? Very interesting viewpoint (if I got it right)

chelseagreg1427
11-08-2009, 06:54 PM
greg was remorseful, not self-pitying. he has done nothing but be remorseful and let me know all the time what he has done to ME, not himself. i know im not going into detail, but im pretty emotional and sad right now(i just PMed you) so not in the mood to think much. but yes greg is REMORSEFUL and i know it.
now it doesnt mean, he wont slip up in the future, but if he does ill be gone, and i believe him when he says he wont.
but i believe and know greg and you are both remorseful. :) sorry if part of that last line was off topic. ;)

SpicaRigel
11-08-2009, 07:22 PM
Good thread!
I was wondering this about myself...i have 160 something more hours of community service to do, and im doing some pretty menial and physically hard work...3 hours on mondays and 3 hours on tuesdays...and i get exhausted from it...and i do NOT like it...and i tell myself, well this is what im paying back to society for breaking the law, i drove drunk and got busted, so...am i feeling remorseful or am i feeling sorry for myself? Honestly i think its a little of both.

tee.dot.q
11-08-2009, 07:34 PM
To me, remorse means the person stops feeling bad for THEMSELVES and starts feeling bad for the people they have affected by their behaviour.

ie - "I feel so bad about what I have done and how it is ruining my life and I am going to have to spend x amount of years in prison in punishment" - NOT remorse

"I have put the people around me in a horrible situation and have hurt them badly, I feel their pain and suffereing" - Remorse.

Perhaps oversimplified but it about sums it up for me.

redrocket1
11-08-2009, 08:05 PM
I think every post on this thread has a bit of truth to it. I personally believe that it is possible for someone to do something wrong, know they were doing something bad, and then still feel remorse for it. I think remorse and self pity are very similar, at least in the way they look to those of us surrounding that person. And I also agree that it is very possible to feel a bit of both at certain times. There are many factors and facets to the conversation though. For instance, as one post mentioned, if you are an addict then obviously your perceptions of your actions will be skewed during those times when you are relapsing into your addictive tendencies. I find it highly possible that an addict could commit a crime under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol or even because of their need to support their addiction and then feel remorse for what they did later. The true test is if they continue to regress to their previous actions or if they take proactive steps to changing their life. Finally, I think that all people have the capacity to change, possibly excepting those who have some sort of mental condition that predisposes them to commit and continue to commit heinous crimes over and over again. Can someone who is not that individual know if there is remorse or just self pity? Maybe not because as I said before I think the line between those two can be very gray and fuzzy at times.

aba
11-08-2009, 08:16 PM
Good thread!
I was wondering this about myself...i have 160 something more hours of community service to do, and im doing some pretty menial and physically hard work...3 hours on mondays and 3 hours on tuesdays...and i get exhausted from it...and i do NOT like it...and i tell myself, well this is what im paying back to society for breaking the law, i drove drunk and got busted, so...am i feeling remorseful or am i feeling sorry for myself? Honestly i think its a little of both.

for what it is or isn't worth Dana as long as you're remorseful i think you can feel sorry for yourself a little bit too, but as long as the blame doesn't get misdirected. i commend you for owning up to everything as i know you have a long time ago, and working hard to pay your debt to society is inspiring for others who want to do the right thing too. so when you're doing that community service know you're inspiring other people who've made mistakes and really want to get straight. :)

aba
11-08-2009, 08:17 PM
To me, remorse means the person stops feeling bad for THEMSELVES and starts feeling bad for the people they have affected by their behaviour.

ie - "I feel so bad about what I have done and how it is ruining my life and I am going to have to spend x amount of years in prison in punishment" - NOT remorse

"I have put the people around me in a horrible situation and have hurt them badly, I feel their pain and suffereing" - Remorse.

Perhaps oversimplified but it about sums it up for me.

I think what you wrote is quite profound and is a great answer to the question I've asked. Thank you.

Tiny xo
11-08-2009, 08:52 PM
To me, remorse means the person stops feeling bad for THEMSELVES and starts feeling bad for the people they have affected by their behaviour.

ie - "I feel so bad about what I have done and how it is ruining my life and I am going to have to spend x amount of years in prison in punishment" - NOT remorse

"I have put the people around me in a horrible situation and have hurt them badly, I feel their pain and suffereing" - Remorse.

Perhaps oversimplified but it about sums it up for me.

i agree completely :thumbsup:

BlueEyedEllie
11-08-2009, 09:18 PM
When a person is truly grieved how his choices have affected others and will do anything to right the wrongs they've done that's true remorse.actions scream sincerity,words whisper and leave room for doubt. time is a huge indicator,too. over time it becomes pretty evident if the person means what he says. oh,and one more thing,honestly,without actions,tears mean NOTHING. it always amazes me how some are so moved by tears. my ex husband coulda drowned in a sea of his own tears but that didn't stop him from continuing to cheat,lie,deceive and manipulate. tears can be a great manipulator i think.

Tiny xo
11-08-2009, 09:30 PM
OMG yes beth.. i didnt even think of the tears thing.. i thought maybe i was just a cold-hearted b*tch.. lol tears dont move me either. tears can be a trick in my eyes. ACTIONS mean the most! & tonight in particular i am starting to realize that if someone is truly remorseful, they words they say are backed up by actions.. & sometimes, they're not & that's when they mean nothing.

only1love
11-08-2009, 10:15 PM
I'm coming in late on this one. There is no way to know if a person is troubled by their dreams unless they share that with you. Some people would never admit to anyone that they have any weaknesses.
And there are times when the people that have been hurt by another's actions are not around to see or hear or evaluate the remorse. So those feelings also get buried.
You cannot apologize or make amends if the person died.
Actions is the only way I know of to measure a person's remorse if it can even be measured. There are people in this world that no matter what you do to show that you have changed, that you do feel remorse, and that you want to make it right, will never be satisfied. Their ruler gets bigger and bigger and bigger.

Some people say they forgive yet they never ever let the person forget that they goofed up or hurt their feelings and so no matter what they do, or say, they are punished over and over again.

Crying is an outward demonstration of extreme emotional distress. Some people never cry and others like me, cry over Lassie movies! I don't think people fake that, but I can see where it looks bad if nothing follows the tears.

People are very quick to evaluate their hurt vs someone's actions to decide what is more important, the effect this had on the hurt individual vs the demons that one who commits the deed is going through. My family is huge. My father was one of 17!
Each one got married and had a family! I have over 63 cousins approximately my age.

I tell you this to assure you that we have been on the pitching end, and the receiving end of numerous bouts of ugly behavior, shenanigans that can never be undone, and a large crowd all evaluating the behavior before, during and after the incident.

I have heard people say, "nope not good enough" when my cousin Joanne came out of drug rehab, yet no one had any suggestions as to what she could or should do to prove she was serious about coming off of drugs! Blame-shifting is another behavior that is rampant. Well so and so would not have done that if only Uncle Joe wasn't so mean all the time. Now it's his fault and round and round it goes. The person who actually did the deed might be very remorseful, but the crowd just might not be in the mood to believe that.

For me, the answer is that we cannot measure remorse. It is impossible to see inside one's heart and brain. And some people do not remember their dreams. Time will reveal itself, and for some the fruit of their labor is seen immediately.

Others it takes many years or perhaps a lifetime to get past the anger so that they can actually see that someone else actually got hurt in the ordeal! For those people, life has gone on and on and they cannot undo the damage, it would seem lame 20 or 30 years later to apologize, and some people die before the other person gets over the anger.

aba
11-08-2009, 11:05 PM
For me, the answer is that we cannot measure remorse. It is impossible to see inside one's heart and brain. And some people do not remember their dreams. Time will reveal itself, and for some the fruit of their labor is seen immediately.


This too is a very profound response and I take great meaning from what I quoted above. It very well might be that the answer is that there is no answer. Thank you Linda for a very insightful response. I feel for you that this insight comes from some negative experiences, however you demonstrate that whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Thanks again.

psalm3418
11-11-2009, 03:31 AM
All of your responses were very thought provoking and caused me to examine my own definition of remorse. I knew what I thought it meant, then decided to look to one of my favorite resources to see how the word is defined:

Webster's: remorse (n) a torturing sense of guilt for one's actions. remorseful (adj) remorseless (adj).

Now I have a better idea of how to describe how my husband feels about his actions. He is remorseful. Torture is a very accurate word for the consuming guilt he feels for what he did, and the endless repercussions his actions caused.

His actions (as restricted as they are in the prison environment) and his words to his family are continuing to prove that he is sincere.

I pray that God blesses the efforts of those men and women who are sincere in their efforts to bring about restoration and healing in the damage they have caused.
This prison system is not conducive to rehabilitation.