Humiliation and Sin
Of the things that severely affect one's sense of personal dignity is vice and commission of sin. One who violates laws and perpetrates actions that are contrary to human honour and merit, will be haunted with a feeling of abjectness and degradation. The sense of shame and guilt continually haunts the sinner as a result of his sinful deeds severely affecting his sense of self- respect and personal dignity. Those who are masters of their desires and in control of their urges restrain themselves from falling into error and corruption and do not approach sin. They have a characteristic sense of personal dignity and mental peace. But such people are a minority in every society, while the majority of people get more or less contaminated with vice in the course of life, and sin casts of its dark shadow on the tablet of their heart.
However, in the same way that physical diseases are capable of treatment, the human spirit and soul is also curable when affected by inner disease. Islam has shown the way of treating this kind of maladies, opening the way of return to health, virtue, and felicity through the means of repentance, and giving the good news of Divine mercy to the penitent.
The Divine emissaries, whose lives were totally free from the traces of sin, have always inspired in the sinners hopes of the Creator's mercy and pardon in order to deliver them from degeneration and wretchedness and to save them. Through penitence before God and repentance for sins they sought to rescue the sinners from the dangerous spiritual repercussions of inner anguish. Thus by refraining from vices and trying to compensate for their past errors they can efface the remarks of transgression to the extent possible. As a result of it they are freed from self-blame and the anguish of a guilty conscience. That is because the continual feeling of sinfulness is extremely painful and debilitating, and despair from purging of the soul of sin and loss of hope in Divine forgiveness bring irremediable harms as well as many dangers for the victim of vice and the society in which he lives. A human being who values his own personal dignity and felicity should immediately implore God's pardon as soon he falls into sin as a result of carnal urges and feels the burden of sin on his shoulders and the guilt of violating the Lord's commands. By attending to the great station of God, he should ask for pardon and forgiveness. The Qur'an considers this characteristic as a merit of the God-wary:
[The believers are those] who, when they commit an indecency or wrong themselves, remember God, and pray for forgiveness for their sins and who forgives sins but God? and do not knowingly persevere in the things they did. (3:135)
But one who becomes addicted to sin due to its repetition and is enveloped in the darkness of sinfulness does not feel that he is doing something evil or have any scruples. He continues to advance on the filthy path until the moment that the agony of death seizes him. He is neglectful of the great station of his Lord as well as forgetful of his own state. He is devoid of this virtue of the God-wary, and his repentance (at the encounter with death) is not accepted.
Imam 'Ali, the Commander of the Faithful, may peace be upon him, considers refraining from contamination with sins as one of the factors that lead to the attainment of personal honour and dignity:
One who believes in his personal dignity and honour does not debase himself with sin and vice. 24
If you desire to attain honour, seek it through obedience (to God). 25
The confession of guilt and the imploring of pardon and forgiveness from God removes the dark stains of sin from one's dignity and recovers one's lost tranquillity of the soul.
Imam Baqir, may peace be upon him, said:
By God, none is relieved of sin except one who confesses his guilt. 26
Confession of guilt and compensating for past misconduct are also considered among the most essential means of relief from the painful pangs of guilt by psychologists, one of whom says:
When someone commits a wrong, he has a feeling of guilt. In such cases, a mild form of anxiety takes hold of us. Such a feeling is quite proper and appropriate, because it produces a feeling of shame in regard to the mistake that we have committed and restrains us from committing it again in the future. When someone feels guilty, it is better to consult an elderly and experienced person who is wise and objective. One should do that in order to get rid of this feeling, which is painful in many cases, and also to know to what extent the feeling of guilt is justified. By this method one would have relieved oneself of one's anxiety as well as sought advice and guidance.
Many people conceal their sense of guilt and in this way torture themselves, a punishment dealt out by the subconscious. That is why such a person is always in a state of agitation. But the right way is not that the subconscious be prompted to deal out its punishment. The correct way is to confess one's mistake and find the way to compensate for it. 27
It is here that repentance and confession of sin before God bring back one's lost peace, making one stronger to compensate for the past errors and to acquire spiritual merit and edification.
24. Al-Amidi, Ghurar al-hikam, p. 677.
25. Ibid., p. 314.
26. Al-Kulayni, al-Kafi, vol. 2, p. 426.
27. Margguerite Malm & Herbert Sorenson op. cit pp. 310-311.
Adapted from: "Ethics and Spiritual Growth" by: "Sayyid Mujtaba Musawi Lari"
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