I am reminded of my less savory actions as I add contacts to my Facebook account from high school. It is a curious thing, these regrets.
At first, I considered writing an apology. But I wondered, for whom am I making this apology, myself or them? And in fact, it did seem as though I was doing it more for myself, to relieve my sense of shame and discomfort. But, as I think on this again, I wonder if it wouldn’t be good for the other person, to hear that people do care about how you were mistreated, and to know that your suffering and their part in it is at least belatedly acknowledged.
I don’t think I was a terrible person. I had my role in the tiny social sphere that was my high school (my graduating class was 16 persons). I was the smart/nerdy/intellectual one. I was pretty skinny and certainly not very athletic, although I tried (my efforts earned me a seat on the bench for most of my high school basketball career), and was decidedly uncool. But I did have a place, even if it wasn’t the most comfortable one. There were other people, though, who had even more trouble than me with fitting in. Sometimes I was an active participant in perpetuating this social ostracization, but equally damning is the more frequent passive acceptance of this treatment. I was too afraid of risking my own delicate standing to speak out against the mistreatment of others, and now I look back at it and I am ashamed; ashamed that I did nothing, but even more ashamed that my reason for doing nothing was for something so worthless as my meager high school reputation. As much for what I didn’t do as for what I did do.
So, what do I do about this. I certainly don’t want to just push an apology onto these people, making them feel obligated to either accept my apology or to somehow ease my conscience. Nor do I want to patronize them, as though they need my apology to complete their life or heal past wrongs, even though this very well may be true. But I do want to apologize because I wronged them, and that wrong needs to be admitted and not ignored. How do you do this, though, if the current relationship is so tenuous. I haven’t had contact with some of these people since we graduated from high school, and even now, my contact with them consists of a Facebook account. Such a confession in these circumstances might seem overly abrupt, even distastefully intrusive and presumptuous.
This is why I don’t think I can proceed with such an apology/confession. I am not in a position in their life to initiate an apology, and do not know if it would even be welcome. I don’t mind giving one if the subject is broached, but to force the negative memories associated with it back into the forefront of someone’s consciousness uninvited seems ill conceived at best and a continuation of the same malicious self gratification it supposedly addresses at worst.