This Is No Place To Make Amends

by Bill Brenner on August 29, 2011

After running the post “Bully’s Remorse” a few days ago, it occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, writing it was a mistake. Or maybe it simply didn’t go far enough.

Mood music:

[spotify:track:5rpRzNcJZqKQXk9PIjreB6]

Like many topics in this blog, I wrote it to yank another skeleton out of the closet and acknowledge that as a teenager, while I was getting bullied and should have related to others who were bullied, I just turned around and kicked around someone I thought was weaker than me.

It’s not the first regret that I’ve mentioned here. In another post, “One of my Biggest Regrets,” I wrote about a New Hampshire reporter from my Eagle-Tribune days who I was terrible to. I called her early one morning to chew her out over a story that didn’t get done, knowing full well her husband was due to have heart surgery that very morning.

It’s a recurring theme here. I tell you about someone I was a awful to, and it’s like I’m making an amends to that person.

But I’m not, really. Amends can only be made face-to-face. In that regard, I’m stuck in neutral.

This all occurred to me after a friend with her own experience in being bullied sent me this message:

I remember being picked on from as early on as 2nd grade all the way through senior year of high school (alternative school, you know “short bus”, “the troubled kids”) I got there by trying to kill myself. I still remember what one of the intake workers said about my overdose: “Hey, you know that could get ya killed…hahaha”… trying to relate to the poor depressed girl. I replied, “Yeah, that’s the point.

Being tormented by my peers in one of the hardest things I have tried to let go of in my life. There is a pile of abuse material, neglect, alcohol and drug addiction (of my family), homelessness, being a foster child, being locked up in psyche…etc., that I could talk about…but, somehow being alienated by the people ( your peers), perhaps even those that could of helped you in that situation, hurt, and still does.

If you remember me from “around the neighborhood”, Bill, its probably because I was the scapegoat for a lot of other kids’ nastiness, including my own sister. So, am I crying in my tea (sorry, I don’t drink), here? I hope not. I’m doing the best to let you know how your “friend” probably felt: useless, self-hating, desperate, and alone.

I hope he was stronger than I was, I hope for you that he is doing well, and can laugh it all off.

My personal opinion is that you are making amends to make yourself feel better. If you want this person to know how you feel, that you are sorry, that you wish you had not done the things you did…..don’t write a blog about it, don’t say: ” hey if you happen to see so and so let him know I wrote a blog about him, cuz I’m so fucking cool … hire your own private detective, find the guy, meet him face to face, and make your amends. That’s being a man. Abuse creates monsters, and what children do to each other while growing up is abuse, sometimes with fatal consequences. I wonder if Columbine would of even happened if adults had a “no tolerance” reaction to any abuse, because they know, and they let it happen all the time.

The line that really cut me to the core was the suggestion that I wrote that post to make myself feel better.

Because in hindsight, it’s true.

Coming clean here is an important step. But I’m really not making my amends unless I’m doing it directly to the person who needs to hear it.

It’s time for me to put the process in motion.

There are many people I need to make peace with.

regret

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Gadi August 29, 2011 at 5:07 pm

I understand why it is so important to make amends in person, and don’t want to take that away from you. I’d also like to share my own perspective, from my own life, about making amends.

Not to compare in any way, but a story: A long, long, time ago I made a mistake I was too lazy to correct. I basically didn’t translate the Dollar amount correctly, and ended up writing in an Excel sheet a few dollars less (out of a few thousand). I figured fixing this would be too much of a hassle, and I’d just add the same amount the following month.

What ended up happening is that I kept adding more, and more, and more. Because the after-the-fact “quick fix” did not solve the actual issue I was feeling bad about – I did not at the time tell the person (who honestly wouldn’t have cared) I made the error, and thus just kept over-compensating and losing several hundred USD over it.

You may call this behavior Childish, and it is. But it helped me realize that (1) Psychologically, I need to just tell the guy, even if he laughs to my face. And, (2) to never again allow myself such laziness, and be sure to avoid any such future events.

We develop our morals as we evolve, and thus can choose an ethic which fits. No one is born with everything already in place — we build ourselves as human beings.

What this comes down to is that yes, if you are looking to make amends, the way to do it is face-to-face. BUT —
I believe that some things from the past are there to teach us. The fact that you write about it, recognize your errors, learn and grow… goes beyond just feeling sorry for yourself. It comes to show you are an evolving person, and that this blog, is foremost – yours and to help you. Whether you decide to look the guy up or not does not take away from what this blog and writing in it gives you. Even if one person takes it, well, personally.

Also, while I do believe that facing a person to make amends is the way to go, and this will probably appear as a contradiction to what I wrote earlier:
YOU DON’T HAVE TO MAKE AMENDS FOR EVERY MISTAKE IN YOUR LIFE. It is enough to just learn from some of them, especially if they are from that long ago. Looking that person up may be a growth experience for you, but it may also not be worth the hassle for either of you.

Isn’t it enough that you learn from it, and try to spread what you learned, and avoid it in the future? It may not be, but that questions is begged here, as while your friend’s email cut you deeply, as it would have me, it assumes what is right for you, which it shouldn’t have. The person, who has obviously been hurt, projects her hurt on you, and that is unfair.

To sum up, if you actually bothered to read all of this — my opinion — from someone who has not gone through what you have, knows as much as you do, and considers himself your friend — this is all my opinion. It isn’t a declaration of how I feel things are, it is not even advice.

Thanks for writing.

Laura Coy August 30, 2011 at 11:02 am

I was not trying to project my hurt onto Bill. Bill has done nothing to me that he would have to feel upset about. My honest statement of what happened to me was only there to give example that I knew how it felt. ALL OF US….every human is impacted by another human….every moment of every day. My only thought process was if making this other person’s (stiffy), personal pain public was the way one makes amends for causing such pain…the end. It wasn’t taken personally, it has nothing to do with me personally….I just know I would want to be the one who is writing my own bullshit business, and not having someone write it for me. An apology, an amends, done in person or via text is personal: amamo to amano….we know how Bill feels…does anyone know how “Stiffy” feels???….and I hate calling him that!!!

Gadi August 30, 2011 at 2:21 pm

I stand corrected and apologize, but words have power.

Laura Coy August 30, 2011 at 11:33 am

Ugh….just took a shower and need to add one more thing…I have always said it is really hard to understand the author’s true intent when reading someone else’s writing. I feel I must add that although I am not an addict, I have grown up with AA all around me, and visited several alanon, and ACOA meetings….I know the 12 steps…, and part of the program is “keeping it real”….if your in the program then you know when someone is working their steps…if they are off track, or you notice they may be working their program through ego instead of spirit…we speak up. I questioned Bill for his own benefit…no to self-indulge. If it came across that way, then I owe an amends myself. No, we cannot make amends for every situation we were apart of or every mistake we make….that would be lunacy…when the time presents itself, an amends is made. The first time I ever talked to my biological father was when I was nineteen. I recalled a extremely violent event that I remembered from when I was around four years old, and let him know that that was one of the few memories I had of him. He said, “you remember that, ? Well, then I need to make amends to you, in the program when you have harmed someone you need to make amends to them, so I am sorry for that.” The incident involved him and my mother drunk, probably on drugs, physically fighting……I watched him try to throw her out the window, and then I watched her stab him….I never spoke to him again after that day….his amends meant shit to me. Making amends is knowing you wronged another, and no matter how badly you wronged that person, having the guts to apologize for it anyway…even if that person never forgives you. Its taking responsibility for who you are and all you are….I tell my kids, if you want to be free, then take responsibility for your actions. When you are no longer afraid to stand up and say…this is what I did, yeah that was me, I am responsible…you no longer have to bury that memory with a cheeseburger or a drink, or a snort, or a fuck….you just own it.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: