If I could go back and do something over it would be…to not be such a smart aleck jerk butthole in high school.
There were two people that I did things to that I regret.
One night, some of my friends and I snuck out and toilet papered one of the high school cheerleader’s houses. We didn’t like her. While my friends threw toilet paper, eggs and stewed tomatoes, I sat on the curb in front of her house for fear of getting caught. But the fear hadn’t stopped me from carrying all the supplies on the mile-long walk and writing a sign in black mascara that said, “Down with Jane, the B-word!” (except it said the word) that my friends merrily hammered into the ground on her front lawn. We saw her crying to her cheerleader friends the following Monday. That made me feel kind of bad. She wasn’t really that much of a b-word.
Another time I threw candy that I had been sucking on at a guy in my English class. He was overweight and not very popular. I laughed. It was totally degrading. Fortunately, a guy that was kind of popular stuck up for him and told me to stop. I was cocky and shrugged it off.
I carried a lot of guilt around for years over those two incidences, particularly the latter.
One day, when I was in college, I was picking up my mom at the kiss and ride at the subway station and saw the candy guy walking across the parking lot. He looked kind of sad, like his life was a failure. I thought, I probably did that to him. He’s probably suicidal.
My guilty conscience led me to think about him often. I prayed for him too. Later, I wished I had said something to him that day at the subway. I wished I’d gotten out of the car and apologized. I vowed that if I ever had the chance that I would apologize. But that was easy to say now that I’d moved 700 miles away from home and had no intention of ever attending any of my high school reunions.
Until Facebook came along.
Eventually, I found the cheerleader on Facebook. I swallowed my pride and 23 years after the incident, I sent her a message telling her it was me and some of my friends (I didn’t say which friends) that toilet papered her house and made the sign. I asked her to forgive me. All of this old fear of the popular cheerleader being able to squash my reputation like a bug came welling up in me. I was really nervous, even after all this time. She wrote back and said she forgave me and that I had inspired her to apologize to other people for things she had done to them. Wow! I wasn’t expecting that.
One down, one to go.
A year and a half later, I happened upon the candy guy on Facebook. Oh crap. I turned off the computer. My guilt wasn’t as heavy since it had been almost 25 years; I had finally forgiven myself. But something kept gnawing at me to apologize anyway. But I didn’t want to. I prayed about it and wrote out an apology in my journal. And I left it at that. For one week.
Because one week later, he friended me on Facebook. Are you for serious? Only one week later? Yes, I’m for serious.
I thought, Oh crap, why would he want to be friends with me? I didn’t even really know him. Unless he wants to find out where I live so he can come and go all Silence of the Lambs on me for ruining his life. But I considered his friending a sign and accepted it. Then, with gritted teeth, I sent my apology and plea for forgiveness.
The next day he wrote back, “Of course I forgive you; I don’t even remember that incident.”
WHAT??? I’ve let this fester inside me for the past 25 years and you don’t even remember it?! I was shocked. Relieved, but shocked. How could he not remember it? I felt kind of like a fool. I worried that I conjured up something in my apology that he didn’t need to be reminded of. How could he not remember it?
So, I’m not really sure what the moral of the story is here.
-Don’t bother apologizing because the person probably doesn’t remember it anyway? No.
-Apologize because maybe you’ll inspire someone to apologize to others? Maybe.
What I really think the moral is is that no matter the impact on the person you wronged, apologizing to others does a work in you. It humbles you. It forces you to recognize your wrongs. It forces you to take responsibility for your actions.
Because, crap, having to apologize to someone sucks. And having that kind of consequence is enough to make me not do something I may regret in the first place.
Have you ever apologized for something you did a long time ago? Have you had an apology go better than anticipated?
Sentence for July 19: In church (place of worship), I learned to…
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