Here is my story. 10 years ago today, my dad said to me, "I want you to become a better person." before he passed away.

I was a bad boy hanging around with bad boys damaging things and fighting with others, which brought plenty of sadness to him. He always thought I would commit a crime.

However, after I heard his last words, I realized how bad I was and I have tried to change myself to follow what he said.

His words "try to be a good person" means the same as "try to become a human" as bad people are referred to as a brute in my country.

What would be a good English word or idiom to describe my change?

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    I am deeply sorry for you loss. Unfortunately, this site is not a translation service. And based on what your context is (per my understanding), there are many possible ways to express your father's last words. It is also unclear if you are looking for a single word or an idiom/proverb.
    – BiscuitBoy
    Commented Dec 29, 2015 at 7:42
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    1. Don't get a tattoo in a language you don't understand completely. 2. Don't get a tattoo at all because 3. Your father wanted you to change yourself on the inside, not superficially on your skin. 4. English has adopted the Yiddish word mensch, literally meaning "man" but figuratively meaning someone who has adopted human virtues.
    – deadrat
    Commented Dec 29, 2015 at 8:04
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    You need to take the tour and visit our help center. Your question is not on-topic. I edited your post to make it look more on-topic but I am not sure if it is salvageable. Please take a look.
    – user140086
    Commented Dec 29, 2015 at 8:39
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    @Rathony your edits are creating a moving target. There's reading between the lines but then there's writing between the lines. Commented Dec 29, 2015 at 8:40
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    For future questions like this one, you might want to try English Language Learners.(Don't reask this question there, because the Stack Exchange discourages "cross-posting". But a thoughtful I'm-looking-for-a-good-English-word-or-phrase question like this one would be welcomed on ELL.)
    – J.R.
    Commented Dec 30, 2015 at 21:32

6 Answers 6


Your father was hoping for your


the act, process, or result of redeeming something or someone: such as

a [noncount] : the act of making something better or more acceptable the redemption of his reputation The situation is beyond/past redemption. [=it is too bad to be corrected or improved]

b : the act of exchanging something for money, an award, etc. [count] stock redemptions [noncount] the redemption of coupons

c [noncount] Christianity : the act of saving people from sin and evil the redemption of sinners : the fact of being saved from sin or evil a sinner's search for redemption bad people who are beyond/past redemption [=who cannot be saved]


Can't say I approve of tattoos. But it's better than fighting and breaking stuff.

  • 1
    Wow... Its... Im.. Commented Dec 29, 2015 at 8:45
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    In Hinduism, a man free from the 7 deadly sins -lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride, would be called Karmayogi. Just adding a point.
    – BiscuitBoy
    Commented Dec 29, 2015 at 8:51

Now, you are a clean slate.

Clean slate:

A fresh start; another chance after wiping out old offenses or debts. The Free Dictionary

A record without dishonour. Collins Dictionary

A record unblemished by problems, failures, etc. A clean record like that of someone just starting an activity or period of time. Merriam Webster

  • Hi, Asfane. Just a heads-up. Linking just a website is not encouraged in this community as your link can become invalid if the linked page changes. Please include essential parts of the link in your post. Please follow the examples of the two answers posted above. Thanks.
    – user140086
    Commented Dec 29, 2015 at 16:02
  • Looks far better. Thanks and +1 :-)
    – user140086
    Commented Dec 29, 2015 at 18:50

You could say,

I mended my ways

Change one's behavior for the better. This expression, transferring a repair of clothes to one of character, was first recorded in 1868, but 150 or so years earlier it had appeared as mend one's manners. The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms

I turned over a new leaf

Make a fresh start, change one's conduct or attitude for the better. This expression alludes to turning the page of a book to a new page. [Early 1500s] The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms

I finally resolved to...

...hit the straight and narrow

straight and narrow: the way of virtuous or proper conduct. Perhaps an alteration of strait and narrow, an allusion to Matthew 7:14: ``strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life'' Random House

...straighten up [and fly right]

straighten up and fly right: The first part, straighten up, has had an extended meaning of "be honest; stay on the level," since the early twentieth century. But the full version owes its popularity to the 1944 Nat King Cole hit of that name. Though Cole shares writing credit for the song with Irving Mills, the story goes that Cole came up with the idea from a sermon he had heard in his father's church, in which "a buzzard took a monkey for a ride in the air." A memorable scene in the movie The Right Stuff has the soon-to-be astronaut John Glenn, a straight arrow if ever there was one, correctly identifying the song on the game show, "Name That Tune." Visual Thesaurus


What you said in your original question reminded me of The Golden Rule, which has a few different variations, but essentially says:

Treat others as you would want to be treated.

So, if your message is to be a reminder of how you want to live and honor your father, you could use some variant of the Golden Rule, or you could use:

Live by the Golden Rule

Your question originally said:

His words like "try to being a good people"... [I want to] turn this sentence to a really deep meaning idiom/proverb for a tattoo on my arm

Since you are looking for an inspirational message that could be used as a tattoo, I'm assuming that you want something shorter than, say:

Try your best to treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself, and you will find that this is the shortest way to benevolence. (Mencius VII.A.4)

So, one brief message you might consider is:

Pay it forward.

which gained some popularity after a recent film by the same name, although the concept has been around for centuries.

As this website explains:

The simplest way to define “pay it forward” is that when someone does something for you, instead of paying that person back directly, you pass it on to another person instead.

It has been proven that acts of kindness build exponentially in a community. Because people believe that one good deed deserves another, “Paying it forward” can make the world a better place.

It may not be the closest English phrase capturing the essence of what you want to say, but if you think of your father's life as the original good deed, it could be an inspirational reminder for a lifetime.


Although the prior answers are accurate and there's already an accepted answer, I believe a good single word idiom might be phoenix, referring to the greek mythological bird which, upon dying in flames, rises again from the ashes.


Try reformed.

Or perhaps, if used very carefully, renewed or reborn.

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