We are all inherently honest. Basically every human being is good. A man is inherently honest. Circumstances make him dishonest or an outlaw. That’s why we must hate the sin and not the sinner.
There’s a beautiful story in Kahlil Gibran’s book of parables. A man was being led to the gallows. Suddenly he saw a butterfly with a damaged wing. He gently lifted the butterfly, placed it on a slab of stone with utmost care and proceeded towards the gallows to be hanged. What’s this? Even that die-hard criminal felt for the wounded butterfly.
There’s a maxim in Buddhism, ‘Everyone is the Buddha because everyone has compassion.’ Yes, every one of us is the Buddha because we’re all compassionate. That’s the reason, the law all over the world believes that no person is irretrievably bad. Reformation is possible at any juncture, age and stage. Change of heart may happen anytime. If ‘heartless’ Angulimal could undergo a sea change when he came into contact with the compassionate Buddha, and Valmiki could become the author of Ramayana, why can’t a criminal or sinner become a good and reformed individual?
When ruthless Epotheoneus saw a child weep over his father’s dead body, whom he mercilessly killed, he cried and immediately gave up his criminal activities to become a philosopher. He also adopted that child and brought him up as his son. Don’t we say in English that all saints are re-edited sinners? The legendary biblical character Paul (actually Saul) lived a dubious and criminal life before becoming the greatest messenger of the Gospels. Many Christian scholars like Brian Wood and Glenn Falls consider him even greater than Jesus in overall religious influence because he (Paul) spread the message of Jesus and laid down his life for Christianity.
Even the most hardcore criminals have a sense of remorse and repentance. That they may not show it till they die, doesn’t mean that they remain unmoved till the end. The US fighter pilots who obliterated Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan on August 6 and 9, 1945 respectively, became deranged when they realised what they did and how many innocent people they killed.
We may commit a crime sans any sense of compunction, but our conscience keeps telling us afterwards that we made a huge mistake. Some accept it vocally and who don’t accept it in public, often go mad. If you’re a human being, you can’t remove your conscience completely. It’ll continue to gnaw at you and this is the trait that makes us human and distinguishes us from animals. Remorse and compassion are constituents of human mind. To say that the mind will remain incorrigibly static all through a lifetime, is a folly.
To say that men are born stonehearted is also untrue. It takes tremendous effort to be unrepentant of the past. Remorse has to be the quality of the refined.Human law does not tamper Justice with any humane substance. That’s why, nowhere do we see a sense of kindness or compassion. Every criminal must be given adequate time to realise the error of his ways. That is why after an arrest, most criminals confess. Remember, an individual’s life is a saga of constant moral upgrading. We imperceptibly get better with every passing moment. When we look back, we indeed feel sad and bad over many an act and deed that we did impulsively and often thoughtlessly. Life’s an endless schooling. To be human is to be compassionate and remorseful. It’s our inalienable character.