A Tone of Absolution

After watching the movie ‘Atonement’ last week, I couldn’t help but wonder: How many of us stand confused when seeking absolution or doling out atonement. I find the two unique.

I was once asked: What is the opposite of I hate you? To which I replied, I don’t care about you. The person asking gave pause and said, no it’s I love you.

Wrong. The effort in hatred is not too divorced from the effort of loving someone. We even coin saying: I love to hate him…. we recognize that anger can be a driving force.

Not caring is to say that the individual means so little to you, that you have no need or desire to engage – you simply don’t care. It can be the ultimate acquittal, or the most painful remission.

I see absolution and atonement within the same conflict of understanding and lingual governance.

When we atone, we aim to repair or endeavor to engage in some for of expiation of our transgressions. We recognize and acknowledge as knowing fact, that we have committed a wrong and wish to make it right. We express remorse, both through our words and actions and through some form of penance – oh yes, and we’ll get to that in a second.

Absolution, however, is weak. Absolution is sought, more often than not, by those who wish to be made free from the perceived punishment they are enduring or the guilt that they may be racked with.

The boyfriends that cheat, the exes who disappear… They seek absolution – too weak to confront the wrong, they safe harbor and hope that things will pass, or that all will be forgiven through forgetting.

In the formal context, if you were to sprinkle a little Jesus on it, one would correlate penance with the sacrament for Christ – and some form of repentance provided from a priest or other church figurehead, they seek reconciliation with Christ as proxied by a holy figure.


I much prefer the penance of past. The sacrificial, Silence of the Lambs type penance. In it’s truest and original form, penance through sacrifice was voluntarily (or involuntarily) offered; a way for one to show their remorse through direct pain or loss.

In fact, the more egregious the transgression, then the greater sum of sacrifice had to be presented – to cause an equal level of suffering – and yes, in some cases the ultimate price of life had to be paid.

Atonement or penance can only be found effective when the offender has expressed true, recognizable contrition for their act. To that extent, their gesture of penance or atonement must be in the effort to repair the damage that was caused by their transgressions.

I cannot sit here to write and say that I am without failure in this regard. There are many times where I have hoped for absolution, yet still failed to atone for my actions or words. Equally, I can count, on more than one hand, those who have returned the same inaction and remain under my hatred.

I would only imagine, in situations such as these, that the forgiveness must be granted or the slate wiped clean – we call this amnesty; and it apparently is through this action that we hope this pardon grants a new beginning.