The following is a modernization/paraphrase of Reparation from Some Fruits of Solitude by William Penn (14 October 1644 – 30 July 1718) with some reflections following.

If you have hurt someone in any way, don’t try to defend your actions: Own up to it! If you do so, you have the chance of gaining forgiveness. Becoming defensive only doubles the wrong and the consequences to yourself.

Some set honor opposite to submission. Put another way, they equate humility with humiliation. But it is hardly honorable to stick to your guns when the initial act was itself dishonorable.

On the other hand, to confess a fault that is, in fact, no fault at all out of fear of how people will perceive you is weakness and should be beneath you. But obstinately defending a real fault is brutish.

We should be quicker to help others than we are to hurt them. If wronged by another, instead of being vindictive, we should leave them to their own misery and internal judgment.

True honor will lead one to repay more than the cost of damages rather than try to justify one wrong with yet another on top of it.

Fear and greed are both great perverters of the human soul. Where either prevail, justice is violated.

Two events are seared into my memory. They taught me the importance of owning up to my own errors. The first was blaming my little sister for something I did. I can still hear her crying as she took the punishment for my sin. I’ve long since confessed this to her and my mother (neither of whom remembered the event) but it haunts me to this day. The second event was during my senior year of high school. I sent an anonymous letter to the district on an issue which had me upset. The fallout from that letter adversely affected people I cared about. With my father’s help I screwed up the courage to meet with the superintendent and principal and confess to the authorship of the letter. I don’t remember the exact details of the conversations but the result was that wrongs were righted, the innocent were acquitted, and (strangest of all outcomes) my own reputation improved. I finished the year with a strong relationship with school administration and was invited back to speak to groups of students on a couple occasions.

I wish I could say that since then I’ve always owned my part in a conflict. Alas, I am human and still learning (and relearning) how to be a good one (or at least a better one than I was yesterday). But I can attest that where I have realized my error and confessed it to the one wronged, that things have largely gone smoother for me.


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