About a year ago I got a friend request on Facebook from someone who made my life miserable in high school. I couldn’t believe it. I almost deleted it, but then I realized this was a rare opportunity for closure. So I accepted her friend request and sent her the following message:
“There are so many things I’d like to say to you. First of all, you made my life a living hell in high school. You bullied me, you harassed me, you followed me around, you destroyed my textbooks, one of which I had to pay for at a time when I was extremely poor. You broke into my locker, you humiliated me, embarrassed me, scared the hell out of me, lowered my already low self-esteem, and basically made me dread school at a point when I already dreaded being at home. I used to cry myself to sleep at night trying to figure out what I had done to deserve that. To this day I have no idea. Why on earth did you dedicate so much negative energy and time on me? What did I do?
“You have left me a lifelong legacy. I will never, EVER go to a high school reunion. I’d rather have root canal surgery than relive those days. And to this day, I have a knee-jerk reaction toward bullies. I will never understand, nor will I tolerate, people who delight in other peoples’ misery. You did that.
“I know this was long ago, and you’re probably a very different person (God, I hope so), I know I am. But give me one good reason, please, why I should be your friend now when you hated my guts then?”
Her response was quite interesting. “I am soooo sorry if I treated you that way. I honestly don’t remember it. I can’t imagine having ever been so cruel and heartless to anyone. I am truly sorry. If you can’t forgive me then I totally understand because those are all unforgivable acts. I’m sorry.”
So I replied, “I appreciate that. It felt good to get it off my chest. I forgive you. Friendship might be a little harder, but I’m willing to give it a shot, if you are. Just goes to show one never knows the impact one makes in the world. I’m sure there are people I’ve hurt, too.”
Wow. She didn’t even have a memory of the damage she had done to me, and from what I can tell from Facebook, has turned out to be a good person, although as expected we don’t interact that much. And yet I had held onto that bitterness for decades. By doing that, I had only been damaging myself. What a waste.
This is why forgiveness is so important. Without it, you remain stuck like a mouse in a glue trap. It does you no good. And people do grow up and change and learn from their experiences. They really do.
I know someone who is still very bitter about his treatment in high school 25 years later, and he’s convinced that the kids who were so horrible to him then are still horrible people now. I’m willing to bet that most of them aren’t, and that most of them don’t even remember him or what they did to him, or if they do remember, they don’t spend a great deal of their time dwelling on it. But he holds that bitter cup of acid deep inside himself, and it punishes them not at all.
It’s time to move on.
(Image credit: examiner.com)