To err is human

I confirm that we all sin. To err is human, as the saying goes. That favourite ditty of mine captures my own emotions succinctly: ‘To good and evil equal bent, and both a sinner and a saint.’ Never would I pretend perfection; far from it, for my life has been like a swinging pendulum, sometimes responding to the good within and sometime to all that is bad. I too sin and err, as I suppose we all do.

This admission, however, does not give us a blank cheque to do as we please, particularly once other people are involved. Of course we hope in the forgiveness of our Lord. We pray that He will accept our repentance and remorse, and that we may turn our lives around, turn our backs on our errors, reform our souls and move on. We can console ourselves that our Lord is capable of forgiving all sins, and perhaps move on, mindful of an encouraging verse like this: ‘And who despairs of the mercy of his Lord except for those astray?’ (Qur’an 15:56)

But if we wrong others and then threaten them if they speak out against us, we can hardly claim to either have remorse or to have repented. If, when caught out, instead of apologising or making amends, we try to silence those we have wronged with underhand means, to then say, ‘But no one is free from sin!’ completely misses the point. If we were to send fake legal correspondence from made-up lawyers to those we wronged, threatening them with legal action, we could hardly say we have atoned for our past wrongs. If we slander those seeking redress as liars, mythomaniacs and fantasists when finally they muster the courage to speak out, we can hardly then convince ourselves that God has forgiven us.

We may hope in our Lord’s forgiveness. We may long for His clemency. We may yearn for absolution. But to pretend that we have been forgiven — when those we have wronged still pursue vengeance, justice and reprieve — is pure delusion. Do not say to your friend, ‘We all sin!’ to excuse him. Say it to remind him, in the hope that he will make amends, reform his soul and become a better version of himself. Say it to help him up. To apologise is just as human as to err.

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