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In this quote, Tove Jansson seems to be saying that making promises out of a feeling of guilt or obligation does not actually resolve any real issues or “settle any debts”. When someone feels guilty about something, they may promise to do better or change their behavior.
However, Jansson appears to believe this type of promise stemming from guilt has no true meaning or impact. The quote suggests that for a promise to have value or settle “debts”, it needs to come from a genuine place of care, responsibility and commitment – not just an empty acknowledgement aimed at easing one’s own guilty conscience.
True amends or making up for mistakes requires honest reflection and action, not just words said to avoid feeling badly.