Posted on October 20, 2015
Remorse and redemption
I remember the first time I talked to my son about the word sorry. I had asked him to apologise for snatching a toy from his best friend. He had looked at me with his big beautiful blue eyes and said “Why I sorry?”
I realised that I couldn’t teach him to say sorry, I had to teach him about the concept of remorse and what it means to be truly sorry.
This was a year ago. In the past 12 months or more, I have worked hard to help him understand empathy. He already absolutely feels empathy, to such an extent that I have in the past worried about his gentleness and the way he feels so much for others. But feeling empathy as a child, doesn’t mean you understand what you’re feeling.
If some of the comments I’ve seen today are anything to go by, my sons will grow up in a world where they will not be held to the same standards others are. Should they hurt others, they will not be expected to show remorse. They will likely be given redemption whether they deserve it or not. They will not need to have empathy for others. They will not be expected to.
It’s my job to teach them that they should not just allow the toxic masculinity that hurts them and helps them wash over their lives without acknowledgement and challenge.
I am lucky that they will grow up with men around them who challenge violent men and never make excuses for violence. I am unlucky – and so are they – that they will also be exposed to so many men who will not challenge it, who will embrace excuses.
I will teach my sons that they must speak up for others. That they must know that violence against women is abhorrent and intolerable regardless of the fact that in this country they might just get away with it. They must know that it’s not enough to just not be violent. They must, must, MUST stand against violence and violent men.
I will teach them what true remorse is. I will teach them that saying sorry and not meaning it doesn’t change anything – that it’s another way to hurt someone and not take ownership of your actions. That sorry is merely the start of a conversation that may lead to healing if they do enough to really show they have true remorse. I will teach them that if they grow up to be someone who has a platform they need to use that platform wisely, to always support and strengthen others.
I will teach them that someone who commits acts of violent abuse, and then uses the immense platform they have to further abuse their victim, is someone they should never, ever support or aspire to be. And that silence is a form of support – as they have the privilege and power to be listened to when others don’t.
I hope, that one day I see my sons as young men – absolutely rejecting the culture that continues to run unabated around them. This culture that glorifies men who deserve no glory. This culture that provides redemption to men who have shown no remorse.
I have two sons – I will do my very best to raise them to rise above and reject a culture that will reward them because of the colour of their skin (regardless of their race) and their presenting gender.
I will do this for them, but I will also do it for women and those who are at risk of abuse at the hands of men who refuse to learn and who benefit from being who they are.
Men who are adults who can’t grasp a concept my now three year old knows and understands.
You don’t deserve redemption just because you request it. You don’t deserve forgiveness just because you want it. You don’t get to say sorry and think that that erases the hurt and pain you caused.