Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future

Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future. – Oscar Wilde

Did you have a reputation in the past? We all have a future, however dubious our past may have been.

What does that mean?
This quote states that everyone who has been declared a Saint was, at one time, something less than saintly. This is a word of encouragement, that every person who has been made a saint was once a normal person like the rest of us, that no one is born into sainthood.

It also states the same thing, in reverse, saying that everyone who is now a sinner (that would, by standard Christian theology, be everyone) has an opportunity to become a better person. By inference, you might even think that sainthood was possible for a handful of us.

Why is character important?  
Character is defined as “Moral or ethical strength.” Virtue is fairly similarly defined as “Moral excellence and righteousness or goodness.” To me, the difference is that Virtue is what you really are, and your character is how others perceive you.

To me, this is very important. Would you want to make a deal with someone who has a reputation (which is a story told about someone’s character) for being a liar? Would you date someone who had a reputation as a cheater? There is a reason that “character assassination” is used in politics; because it works.

Where can I apply this in my life?
In the case of this quote, I want to focus not on how to deceive others into thinking you are virtuous, nor how to brag about how good you are. Instead, I would like to focus on how to  so consistently act virtuously (at what ever level of virtue you wish to maintain) that your character will be obvious to everyone who knows you, hears about you, or even simply observes you.

This one is going to be tough, if you are willing to be brutal and honest in your self-examination. Are you ready? Grab some paper and start by writing down (with some space between each one) the names of three close friends and three people you interact with on a regular basis (at work, in social situations, etc).

Beneath each name, write down what you think their perception of your character is, and which virtues they would say you had or were lacking. Think back to when you first met your close friends, and how you behaved back then. What was their impression of you, both then and now? What have you done to change your behavior and their belief about your character?

For the people who you don’t know as well (and don’t know you as well), they have to rely on how you act around them and on rumors they hear second or third hand. How do you act around them, and what rumors might they have heard from mutual friends? How does that differ from what your friends think about you?

An example of an acquaintance I used to have frequent contact: the girlfriend of a buddy from college. At the time, we were in our mid 20’s and she had a bit of a reputation as a serious party girl. Over the next 10 years, she settled down, they got married and had kids. I wonder what she might have written regarding my perception of her, had she selected me as one of the people she interacted with on a regular basis?

The point of the exercise is to consider what others might think of your character. How many different pictures of you are there in the minds of those six people? If they were to sit down and talk about you, would they even agree that they were talking about the same person? That would bother me. Does it bother you?

As the quote says, everyone has a past. And everyone has a future. Think about what you want people to know you for, what they think of when asked about your character. Once you have a target, a desired reputation, all that is left is to start acting that way. Consistently. Every day, every time, every where. That way, no one is confused, and if some acid-tongued gossip starts an untrue rumor, no one will believe it, as it would be so outside your character.

This kind of change won’t likely be done in a day, week, or month. It might take more than a year. Depends on how different your past is, or how different your behavior is between your work, play and social activities. How hard you work to unify or synchronize your reputation is up to you. But remember, you always have a future. At least until you die. 8)

From: Twitter, @iheartquotes
confirmed at : http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/o/oscarwilde107108.html
Photo by Jemingway

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  1. St. Augustine was the first to write this quote. The quote originally said, “There is no saint without a past, no sinner without a future.” I read somewhere that Oscar Wilde actually converted to Catholicism before he died. St. Augustine was absolutely NOT a saint before he went though his conversion. lol

    • Thanks for stopping by and for leaving such an interesting comment.

      I’ve not read much from St. Augustine, so such a pre-statement could have easily slipped my notice. Thanks for the info.

  2. After all, sainthood is what we Christians should strive to be in the end. A great read! I have a related post (Chances of A Saint and A Nation), about Filipino sainthood. Its in my blog, only if you have free time to visit. Cheers!