While I'm away, readers give the advice.
Applying an adult's perspective to childhood bullying
C: I was the geek of my high school; no friends. I was beaten up regularly, shoved into lockers, harassed hourly.
I ran into one of my tormentors in college; he apologized and we became pretty good friends. The worst tormentor, I heard through the grapevine, went to prison for wife-beating and burglary.
The best way to handle this is to show compassion, live well and, if apologized to, be gracious. Being tormented should teach us to be compassionate as adults to the damaged people we meet, and the downtrodden.
Former Bully: I have been looking for almost 20 years for a woman I bullied in eighth grade in 1981. Even in the information age I can't find her or her brother.
If I find her, I will of course do my best to apologize. I would want to let her know — and I'm sure this is true for many former bullies — how terrifying my own life was at the time and how pushing her around gave me a brief sense of control.
I know that's no excuse, but I was 13 and a train wreck. I'm 40 now and, I hope, a much better person.
S: Back in third grade, I was the victim of what I perceived as a rather brutal case of bullying. Though I haven't constantly dwelled on this episode in my life, it still stayed with me over the years. I may have fantasized meeting this bully and beating him to a pulp but reality kept these thoughts to just that. More so, I wanted to know why and to make him apologize for leaving me with this permanent scar.
By chance, I met this person nearly 45 years after the fact. At first, upon hearing his name, I felt the anxiety of facing him once again. In a friendly manner, I introduced myself and recounted what he had done to me so many years before. The result of this confrontation was that he had no idea who I was and did not remember what he had done. He admitted to his questionable conduct back then but was unaware of any details. I must not have been the only one to fall victim to his bullying ways.
So here we have another reason for a bully not apologizing to his victims. It may have just been the way they were. Their victims were less thought of than yesterday's breakfast. Bullying was what they did, and once they did what they did, they moved on to the next victim.
I may have been the victim, but the guilt falls to me for holding on. I turned a single moment into a lifelong memory. I now believe my anxiety over this episode has not been aimed at the bully but rather at myself for allowing it to happen. The scar I have is from my own anger for not standing up to him.
Although he did apologize sincerely during our conversation, I realized it wasn't what was needed. After all, he didn't remember me. The needed apology was within reach all these years; all I needed was to forgive myself.