True stories of atonement
October 8, 2017 2:59 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for stories about someone/s that did something/s terrible, and then not only realized what they had done was terrible but took active steps to atone for it in action. For example: by making reparations to the victims above and beyond what was required by law, by taking steps to ensure such a thing never happened again, by actively sacrificing for general greater good because the specific thing they'd destroyed could no longer be fixed, etc.

I don't care about the medium- article, book, podcast, comic, anecdote shared in internet forum, song, etc etc, it's all fine. I just want it to be a true story. And it doesn't have to be a person, it can be a group/community/society as well.
posted by Cozybee to Media & Arts (15 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
ronald cotton and jennifer thompson

their book
posted by j_curiouser at 3:39 AM on October 8, 2017

Christian Picciolini, former white supremacist who founded the advocacy group Life After Hate.
posted by Gordafarin at 4:04 AM on October 8, 2017 [2 favorites]

Look into the justice and reconciliation courts in Rwanda. In particular, look up gacaca courts. You might be interested in this photo essay, and this recent article about umuganda. You may also be interested in this article which compares the reconciliation process in post-genocide Rwanda and post-apartheid South Africa. There are a lot of critiques of the process, as well. You might be interested in Machete Season, Life Laid Bare, and the Antelope's Strategy by Jean Hatzfeld, about interviews with genocidaires, survivors, and the justice and reconciliation process, respectively.
posted by ChuraChura at 5:38 AM on October 8, 2017 [5 favorites]

After her gay son's suicide, the formerly religious-right mom in this book, who had taught her son that it was wrong to be gay, went from homophobia to educating herself and then devoting her life to publicly discussing her transformation, and to educating on and crusading for, LGBQT teenagers.
posted by flourpot at 7:16 AM on October 8, 2017

Does Oskar Schindler count? Don’t know if we can conclusively know his motives.
posted by kapers at 7:17 AM on October 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

Ten months ago, a police prosecutor told Sgt. Chris Hrnchiar he would be “forever labelled” by the “insulting and racist” comments he made online after the drowning death of Annie Pootoogook.
posted by clawsoon at 9:03 AM on October 8, 2017 [2 favorites]

I've always been impressed by John Profumo's actions post Profumo Affair scandal of 1963. John Profumo, the Secretary of State for War in Harold Macmillan's government embarrassed and brought down the Conservative Party's reign. The whole thing is depicted in the 1989 movie Scandal.

Profumo gave no interviews on the subject for the rest of his life.

Extensive quote from Wikipedia:
"After expressing his "deep remorse" to the prime minister, to his constituents and to the Conservative Party, Profumo disappeared from public view. In April 1964 he began working as a volunteer at the Toynbee Hall settlement, a charitable organisation based in Spitalfields which supports the most deprived residents in the East End of London. Profumo continued his association with the settlement for the remainder of his life, at first in a menial capacity, then as administrator, fund-raiser, council member, chairman and finally president. His charitable work was recognised when he was appointed a Companion of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1975. He was later described by Margaret Thatcher as a national hero, and was a guest at her 80th birthday celebrations in 2005. His marriage to Valerie Hobson endured until her death in 1998;[151] Profumo died, aged 90, on 9 March 2006."

If only all rightwingers had this sense of shame and honor.
posted by Chitownfats at 11:14 AM on October 8, 2017 [3 favorites]

I think Frank Abagnale ("Catch Me if You Can") is a good example of this.
My oldest boy is an FBI agent. Probably the proudest moment of my life was when he walked across the stage at the FBI Academy. For years and years I’ve taught at the FBI Academy, and I’ve always been on the stage looking down at the audience. That was the one and only time that I ever sat in the audience and watched my own son walk across stage. He’s been an agent for 12 years now.
-Frank Abagnale, former con artist and scammer
posted by invisible ink at 9:33 PM on October 8, 2017

Alfred Nobel
After reading a premature obituary which condemned him for profiting from the sales of arms, he bequeathed his fortune to institute the Nobel Prizes.[1][2]
posted by aniola at 12:10 AM on October 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

Just to clarify-- I am looking for stories about atonement on the part of the perpetrator, not about forgiveness on the part of the victim.

Stories in which no forgiveness was given are completely fine, whereas stories without active atonement aren't an answer to the question I'm asking.

I particularly want stories in which the perpetrator was not a minor when he committed the act, and the act wasn't a mistake/accident, but I'll take answers that don't fit that criteria, also.
posted by Cozybee at 1:42 AM on October 9, 2017

Restitution is a common theme in certain born-again Christian circles. My vague impression is that it was recently huge in Nigerian protestantism. With some digging, you'll find lots of vague stories.

It's also Step 9 in Alcoholics Anonymous, which might provide more stories if you dig for them.

However, so far I'm mostly finding lots of instances of religious people telling other Christians to make restitution, with the suggestion that they donate to the church if making restitution is impossible for one reason or another.

Did Chuck Colson make restitution?
posted by clawsoon at 8:37 AM on October 9, 2017

Takashi Nagase, from the infamous bridge on the River Kwai.
Nagase was also noted for his reconciliation with former British Army officer Eric Lomax, whom he interrogated and tortured at a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp in 1942. Lomax then went on to discuss his reconciliation and eventual friendship with Nagase in his autobiography, The Railway Man. The book chronicled his experience before, during, and after the Second World War. It won the 1996 NCR Book Award and the J. R. Ackerley Prize for Autobiography.

Nagase also wrote a book on his own experiences during and after the war entitled Crosses and Tigers, and financed a Buddhist temple at the bridge to atone for his actions during the war.[3] The reconciliation between the two men was filmed as a documentary Enemy, My Friend? (1995), directed by Mike Finlason.

After the end of the Second World War, Takashi Nagase became a devout Buddhist priest and tried to atone for the Japanese army's treatment of prisoners of war. Takashi made more than 100 missions of atonement to the River Kwai in Thailand.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 12:05 PM on October 9, 2017

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