Letters to the Editor: An Apology

  • posted by Gitabushi

I received an email yesterday, requesting I post this letter. So here you are:

This year, at a client’s Christmas party, we were challenged to “Pay It Forward” – we were all given a $50 bill, and told to change someone’s life. It’s an incredibly hard task. It seems easy enough, just give it to charity. Can you change someone’s life that way? Collectively, sure. I tried a lot of different things. I was shocked at how HARD it is to find someone to take your money. I found wishlists. I tried to fulfill them. But then couldn’t get callbacks to go and drop off what they wanted. I already do Angel Tree. I already buy toys for kids who need them.

But life changing? That’s a big job.

I finally donated the money we were given, along with some extra, to buy 750 meals for those in need in my area. We had a deadline on the Pay It Forward, and I had to do something.

Life changing? No. Day changing.

But there has something that has haunted me for over 30 years. A person I have wronged. I think about her quite often, to be honest, and wonder how she is doing. No way of making it right. Probably not a chance in Hades that she would ever answer the phone, if I even had her number.

I bullied her.

As a kid, I pretended to be her friend, and then spilled and laughed about her secrets. I made horrendous remarks on her appearance for laughs. For 13 years. She found out in 8th grade. I remember the day.

I know what you’re probably thinking. Believe me, I’ve thought worse about myself. But I have to forgive myself now, and not hold onto it. I chose her as my victim because she had a great father. Mine was into abusing me – sexually, verbally, and physically. HER father went to her events, was fun at sleepovers, loved his kids. So I chose her.

When I was thinking about changing lives, I thought – that’s the one thing I’d like to fix. In my life, and in hers. And maybe if I share this story, I can change yours, too.

If you have ever been bullied, take this note, and let me apologize for them too. There are sometimes stories behind a bully. Nothing makes what I did right. Nothing. But find forgiveness – for yourself. That’s life changing.

Saturday, she will receive a box from me – with goodies and this note. And I hope she forgives me. And I hope I forgive myself for Christmas.

 

“There will never be a good excuse for what I did to you when we were kids. There’s no way around it. I bullied you.

You were a wonderful, kind person to me. You didn’t deserve what I gave you. I’ll always regret that. I could go into the “whys”, but that’s not what is important. What is important to me, is that you know this – I am terribly sorry, I always have been, and you’ve been in my prayers for decades.

I hope you have the happy life you so richly deserve.”

That’s pretty heavy. And pretty brave.  Admirable, as well.

We all do stupid things. We all hurt people. Most of us have a cruel streak; some of us even try to eliminate it, or at least suppress it.

The person who wrote this was a child when bullying. I agree: that doesn’t excuse it. the actions described in this missive were clearly wrong.  But we have to forgive ourselves as we forgive others.  It is very nearly as wrong to live with the guilt of this for so long, as it was to cause the harm in the first place.

I’m not a Christian. I lost my faith. Interestingly, I lost my faith due to my musings on sin.  Too long and complicated to explain here. The salient point is I still spend time musing on the nature of sin.

Sin can be defined as any time we treat others (or ourselves) as objects. Sin can also be defined as the damage we do to others.

Sin begets sin. The father of the writer sinned, and cause damage that led to additional cruelty, i.e., more sin.  And I’m sure that the recipient of the bullying acted out her pain and sinned against others.

We all sin.  There is not one single person on this planet that has not sinned, and does not continually sin.  The burden of our sins would be crushing, if we don’t learn grace and forgiveness.

Healing cannot begin until after forgiveness has had its impact. It shouldn’t be cheap, or easy. But I think the obvious anguish displayed in this letter makes it clear forgiveness in this case could be neither.

Whether or not the victim is comforted, whether or not the victim forgives, good was done here.

Would that we all had the courage to face up to our own sins.

 

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