Contrition goes beyond mere regret or even remorse. The contrite person hurts because of the hurt they caused. And they work to mend wounds.
Character-impaired folks inevitably use and abuse others. And the more they lack conscience and empathy, the more seriously they’re likely to use and abuse.
Folks devoid of empathy will hurt you without compunction. They might regret certain consequences, but they rarely experience genuine remorse or contrition. How someone acts when they’ve hurt you tells all you really need to know about their character.
The most severely disordered characters among us are not the “hot-headed” types who sometimes let their passions get the better of them and do things they might sometimes later regret but rather the “cold-hearted” sorts who chronically and ruthelessly try to get the better of others.
Making amends in a meaningful way can be a particularly arduous task. But in a loving relationship, repairing any damage done (whether inadvertently or intentionally inflicted) is not only a person’s duty but also essential for maintaining integrity of character.
The concepts of shame, guilt, regret, remorse, and contrition have been the subject of great debate within the professional community for some time. And even though these terms are not strictly psychological in nature, because they have such importance to matters of character, they’re worth a closer look.
The truly contrite individual works to make amends, to do better, and above all, to be better.
Our preconceptions about human nature, most of which have been endorsed or promoted by traditional psychological schools of thought, are actually our worst enemies when it comes to understanding the disturbed characters among us.
Having some regret simply isn’t enough to make a person mend their ways. True contrition involves a change of heart, a humble self-reckoning, and a firm commitment to change.