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The Influence of Repentance on the Self and Society. In his essay Of Repentance Montaigne argues that all people are born with a certain nature, some lean toward good and others toward evil, but we cannot change who we are. Therefore, if we

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Introduction

To Repent, or Not to Repent-That is the Question: The Influence of Repentance on the Self and Society Repentance and regret are commonly thought to have the same meaning, but for Michael de Montaigne they are entirely different; repentance is the denial of one's natural, everyday actions and regret is wishing to undo them. In his essay "Of Repentance" Montaigne argues that all people are born with a certain nature, some lean toward good and others toward evil, but we cannot change who we are. Therefore, if we reason and act within our nature, then there is nothing to repent of. Moreover, repentance is not necessary because we should not be held to our actions and words of the past, because our public nature is constantly changing (Montaigne, 79) along with your inner nature (45-6). Montaigne's concept of a public versus private persona, one that he does not condone, and where one is showing the world a different person than one is at home, is a dangerous proposition for community and personal life because it excuses a beguiling lifestyle. If one listens to Montaigne and strays away from this, than one can live an overall better life. His point is valid, but if one does not listen, this life can lead to mistrust by others, losing the self, committing crimes, and sadness. In addition, religious repentance to a priest holds similar characteristics to personal, self-guided repentance where one determines if one's actions are acceptable. ...read more.

Middle

He even writes in his will to have his heirs continue his deeds (84). With this story comes the question of motivation. Are the man's childhood crimes forgotten because of his seemingly benevolent endeavors as an adult? According to Montaigne his motives are in the wrong. He is only looking to make up for his past actions, implying his good deeds supersede his earlier destructive actions. Moreover, despite this man's sadness for what he did it does not change his actions and there is no need to repent with them. Montaigne would agree with this statement because the man was acting on what he thought was right at the time, but he does not discuss how the man should neither regret his actions, simply learn from them. Additionally, regret promotes self-loathing, another concept he fails to discuss, which does not advance one's thinking. When one regrets actions of the past there is no room to learn from them. One must recognize that each and every decision is rooted in the heart and therefore one must refrain from feeling sorrow and anger. Montaigne continues to boast that he never found fault in himself because his actions were out of his control, but happened by luck (87). Thus, circumstances beyond our control dictate the decisions we make and because luck and chance are constantly changing, we are not able to repent because what is right may change in the future (87). ...read more.

Conclusion

He is alleviating all responsibility from himself by blaming his actions on luck, an obvious threat to community and personal life. Furthermore people are not impartial and generally do not like to think of themselves as in the wrong; there is always a justification for any action. Overall, Montaigne's model of the self is somewhat unsuited for today's society. If people were constantly looking past their actions without contemplation, there would never be human and societal growth. The beauty of humankind is that we have the capability to analyze our actions and understand the motives and reasoning behind them. If people were not judging others on, then no one would think to reassess him or herself. Social judgment, or questioning others is therefore important, but too much judgment and pressure only leads to one losing one's true self. It is essential, as Montaigne says, to remain true to the self and follow suit in all aspects of life, but if who you are is extremely detrimental to others, than a degree of acknowledgment is necessary. Even though at one point in someone's life they committed crimes and hurt others, it does not mean they should continue in the same manner. Therefore, a certain amount if repentance in necessary to understand one's actions. The result is an improved personal and community life. If one can learn from the past and remain true to the self in all his or her actions, then one has accomplished the goal that so many strive for; a goal that can be accomplished on a bigger scale if societal pressures were not weighing so heavily on the individual. ...read more.

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