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October 31, 2013


On redemption


Can one redeem oneself throughout the extraordinary love for another person? And if this were possible, could this path lead towards enlightenment? I suppose that in this enormous an incomprehensible universe, everything, and I mean everything is possible. However, I suspect that the subtle and yet demanding preconditions make it quite challenging, if not outright prohibitive.

The thought about redemption came to me a few weeks back, while I was swimming laps. It struck me like a lightning bolt. In an instant I understood that in my case, this was not possible. I thought “one cannot redeem oneself by loving someone else, no matter how deeply this feeling might be”. Perhaps there are cases, in which a sort of redemption towards oneself might occur. But this would have to be procured via unselfish love, and this was not my case, at all.

So what is redemption anyway? defines it as:

  1. An act of redeeming or atoning for a fault or mistake, or the state of being redeemed.
  2. Deliverance; rescue.
  3. Theology. Deliverance from sin; salvation.
  4. Atonement for guilt.
  5. Repurchase, as of something sold.

As you can see, the first four definitions have something to do with past mistakes, which could lead to losing one’s freedom or simply put, towards losing something. Even the fifth definition alludes to buying back something that was lost, because it had been previously sold.

Of course, we could lose a great number of things, but for the sake of my realization, let’s concentrate on the emotional loss, due to past behavior. And this does not necessarily mean bad behavior or sin, per se. For example, we could point to the loss of innocence, as we age and gain more knowledge and experience; particularly, if this turns into cynicism or simply a lack of enthusiasm for life, i.e. pessimism and drudgery.

In a simple way, we could say that redemption is the process whereby we seek to be liberated: Rescued! We could think of a physical liberation. Such is the case from an untold number of people which are held prisoners against their will, or by the untold millions that are imprisoned by harsh economic conditions, the world over. Nevertheless, the liberation that I am referring to is the liberation from oneself; from one state of self-oppressiveness to a complete release.

The mistake of directing our love to another person and in the process expecting that this will liberate us from ourselves, is due to placing our emphasis on the external. So in essence we have mistakenly surrendered our own power, let alone our real chance to liberate ourselves. And when such atonement is not forthcoming then we are left feeling the worst for it. Mind you, when I say “love”, this could mean the love for a child, a partner, a relative, etc.

And therein lies the problem. When we place our expectations to be redeemed by our love towards someone else, we unduly place a lot of pressure on that “someone”. Furthermore, we are now caught into the whims of that someone, and our salvation could be the last thing on their minds. Besides, this could strain or simply sour the relationship, regardless of those untold number of passionate things that we say or do for our love interest.

The problem is compounded, because our expectations could require a behavioral modification by the person who is our love interest. And when this does not happen, disillusionment ensues. Paradoxically, it is because of whom they are, we bestowed our love onto them to begin with. Why would we want them to change?

Finally, we could say that one should be very weary to seek redemption, throughout a fellow human being, no matter how much we love them.


2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Oct 31 2013

    Excellent article Balam. Redemption indeed is a profound concept and archetype that has been debated among theologians of many paths for centuries. There is no easy explanation to this idea – just like there is no easy explanation to great concepts like love and compassion, but it is always worth sharing our thoughts and ideas in hopes that others will too reflect and consider the importance of such a noble idea. Thanks for your thoughts in this really nice write-up! Best, Keith

    • Oct 31 2013

      Thank you Keith. Yes, it is a complex idea, that is definitely worth sharing.


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