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Help overcome personal shame and guilt

Self-Forgiveness and Self-Respect

Robin S. Dillon

Ethics: An International Journal of Social, Political, and Legal Philosophy, 2001

Research details

Type of paper: Theoretical/Conceptual/Review

Open Access: No


Thirty years later, Alison still recalls an episode in her teens, not frequently, but often enough, and always with something akin to self-loathing. There was this girl, Dana, someone Alison had been friends with in middle school, though they'd drifted apart. Dana was nice and smart and funny, and she was deformed (maybe thalidomide, Alison now thinks). That hadn't mattered to Alison when they were younger, but it was a big deal to her high school friends. They made up mocking songs and dances and made fun of Dana in the halls. Alison never sang the songs or danced the dances, and she told her friends to stop it when they ridiculed Dana. But she has always known to her deep shame that she was not guilt-free-she knows she was too cowardly and too needy of acceptance to stand up for Dana, to make her friends stop tormenting, to stop being friends with tormentors, and she knows that she did laugh. After all these years, Alison can't forgive herself for Dana. Nor is she sure that she should-how could a self-respecting person be at peace with herself about something like this? Recurrent self-reproach reminds Alison of things she wants not to forget.