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I recently made a major mistake in life, I defaulted on most of my major virtues by initially accepting an unearned guilt. From there I lost all sight of rationality and was being totally guided by my emotions (a frame of mind I had prior to becoming an objectivist and found it disturbingly easy to fall back into). This lead me to act in a way contrary to my character. I hurt a few people I cared deeply about and also hurt myself. I have since spent a grueling amount of time correcting the mistake within myself and ensuring it never happens again. I have in effect come to understand first hand precisely WHY virtue is so important. I have also made ammends to the best of my ability.

I would say, as it stands, I am back to being objective and infact a better objectivist than I was before. However, my previous actions have marred my character to some people I do care about.

I guess what I want to know is, whether or not it is possible to gain that kind of redemption? Is it worth pursuing if those people didn't take into account that those actions were outside my character norm? Would I be better off cutting my losses (those people I care for) and moving forward, or is that just really cold?

asked Jun 22 '12 at 05:29

CDObjectivist's gravatar image

CDObjectivist ♦
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edited Jun 23 '12 at 10:44

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦
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About nine months ago I left my fiance of six years. She was controling and mean and hated the idea of me being an Objectivist. I fell out of love with her. I accepted guilt for hurting her, even though I was justified in leaving her. I kept in contact with her to try and help her in some way feel better about it, to guide her through it. This, from my perspective, put me in a position of being open to manipulation and was an irrational act. I did it because I still cared for her, regardless of what she had done to me, but in retrospect should have stayed away.

About a month after the breakup I connected in a meaningful way with a friend from work. She was home for the summer from college. We became close and romatically involved. As we got to know eachother I was still dealing with my ex. They knew about eachother limitedly at the beginning. When I decided I wanted to pursue a relationship with this girl I pushed my ex away but never told her about this girl. We didn't speak until after New Years Eve.

My ex called me a few days after new years eve hysterical, having found out that I had spent new years with her she demanded to know why I was with this other girl and whether or not the last six years had ever meant anything to me. I accepted that guilt again and began talking to her again. From there I lied to my ex about this girl, lied to this girl about my ex. My ex and I started hanging out, she insisted she had changed and was demonstrating it. At the same time this girl I had met at work was away at college and we were keeping in touch long distance. I would often go to visit her. We were not technically exclusive, there was never a title, she was reluctant to accept that on account of wanting to find herself. By this point I wasn't thinking anymore.

The quote from the Lexicon you posted is very poignant. I stopped any introspection all together and was allowing myself to be lead by emotion. I got confused at this point, wasn't sure what I wanted anymore and was trying to figure that out without hurting anyone. What I should have done here was excuse myself from the situation and figure it out. Instead I lied more to the both of them. Eventually my ex and I slept together and eventually the two found out about everything. I am branded a liar and a cheater. Which is true. That is what I did. There is more to all of this, things my ex did to further twsit me up, false premisises I accepted from both women that further embedded me into irrationality and emotionalism. None of that matters as I chose to take those actions, chose to lie, chose to default on my virtues.

In the end I hurt them both, lost some friends over it and have spent the last three and ahalf months in introspection. It has been a very painful journey back from those depths. I do not think this is necessarilly an irredeemable evil...I do understand fully the consequences of my actions. I regret them and am ashamed of them. I explained as best as I could at the time, once everything came to light, why I did it and that I was sorry that it had happened. I don't think it's enough though...for what I've done I think more is necessary. I couldn't say what action is possible to me. If any.

Perhaps that is the justice in it, beyond what I've endured by my own hand the past few months. If that is the case I accept it. But what I cannot reconcile has to do with my character. I value that tremendously and hate that I've tarnished it so much, so baddly.

When I say redemption, I do not mean it in the religious sense. I guess the better question is, is my character irretrivable? Has this terrible action caused me to lose any hope of fully restoring it? Is there an action possible that would restore it beyond introspection and a reinforcement of my virtues?

What friends I have left think I am being too hard on myself, say I am human and that it will pass. But I've ensured I carry scars for this, metaphorically speaking, so that I wont forget how important virtue is and what one can lose in the course of defaulting on them. Beyond that I think calling it "only human" is a bit of a copout.

Well, there it is, the short of it anyway. You are right that it will take time, persistence and patience. There are moments where I feel as though I do not deserve anything decent, that I am fooling myself. I think thats weak...but part of the process of getting back up. Anyway...this is what happened and where I am at. Thanks for your response.

(Jun 23 '12 at 04:30) CDObjectivist ♦ CDObjectivist's gravatar image

Rules to live by: 1. Take responsibility for your own happiness. 2. Recognize that you are NOT responsible for the happiness of others.

Recognize that the guilt is there for a purpose: To force you to identify the cause of your mistake, in this case it's because you violated rule #2. If you love someone, be with them. If you don't, walk away. Their happiness is THEIR problem.

BTW: I've done worst than you so don't worry. You will recover and live a much happier life.

(Jun 23 '12 at 06:32) Humbug Humbug's gravatar image

It will probably take time, patience and persistence on your part to show others what kind of person you really are. If they've been "burned" once, they will probably be cautious about letting it happen again. You will need to decide how badly you have hurt them and/or hurt their appraisal of you, and what level of effort on your part might be warranted by the value that you see in them and can demonstrate to them in yourself. Simply "walking away" without even trying to rectify a past wrong seems counter-productive, but it depends on their standards and values as well as your own commitment and determination to do better consistently. Without knowing more of the specifics of what happened and to whom, it's hard for an observer to judge this definitively.

The term "redemption" also sounds a bit religious. There is little or no mention of it that I know of in the literature of Objectivism, although Objectivist writings do mention "earned guilt" in at least one place that I know of: "Introspection" in The Ayn Rand Lexicon:

A major source of men's earned guilt in regard to philosophy—as well as in regard to their own minds and lives—is failure of introspection. Specifically, it is the failure to identify the nature and causes of their emotions.

But as long as you haven't committed an act of irredeemable evil, you probably still have a chance to "make amends" for what you did, whatever it may have been.

answered Jun 23 '12 at 02:46

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦
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Asked: Jun 22 '12 at 05:29

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Last updated: Jun 23 '12 at 10:51