Dear Rhonda & Dr. Cheri: Is it ever too-too late to apologize?
Dear Rhonda and Dr. Cheri,
I’m 33 and was a nerd without friends in high school, until I suddenly became accepted into the “cool guys” group. I was told to “just chill,” so I did.
I became so chill that I stood by while my new friends bullied a girl I’d known since kindergarten.
The girl they bullied (while I stood by and did nothing) was overweight, but sweet and funny. They were extremely mean to her, calling her fat. They made sexually harassing comments and called her a loser.
The pain I imagine she felt, when I didn’t stand up for her, must have been devastating.
I want to profusely apologize to her. I still feel so guilty — I’m responsible for allowing the bullying to continue to happen.
I don’t know how to get in touch with her, though.
Is it too-too late to apologize?
Not Cool Anymore
Dear Young Man,
It is never too-too late to apologize, and it could be a life-changer for her and you.
Try finding her on social media, contact old friends, and dig deep to find her. It’s imperative, no matter how late it seems to you. She may feel comforted or have a cathartic (good or bad) experience with you.
Tips on apologizing:
• Be authentic; remember this is about her and her trauma, not your guilt.
• Be humble; she needs to know she has worth.
• No excuses; be accountable.
• Her trauma is real; you may have no idea how much therapy she’s needed, or relationship problems she’s had, because she was betrayed and can’t trust others.
• Own and admit your mistake; being remorseful means not diluting your apology by blaming the “real” bullies. Not standing up against bullies makes you one of them.
• Don’t expect immediate acceptance of your apology; she’s probably suffered for a while. Allow her to vent or cry, however, don’t allow her to become abusive to you.
• Make restitution; Offer your unconditional care, and if she asks for you to go to a therapy session, go once, if her therapist is in agreement.
• In person — in public — is best; see her face to face (if possible), it’ll help show her your true regret. Your body language and tone of voice accounts for 93 percent of your regretful communication (leaving only 7 percent for words). But make sure not to give out your personal information. Revenge bullying is very common today.
• Seek forgiveness; never say, “I’m sorry you feel that way” or use the word “but,” which negates your apology.
We are all imperfect beings, who may, however, apologize perfectly.
Rhonda and Dr. Cheri
Rhonda Orr is the president and founder of the Prescott-based Rhonda’s STOP BULLYING Foundation. Dr. Cheri L. McDonald, PhD, LMFT, is a crime-victim specialist. Listen to Rhonda’s podcast: bullyinglifeandstuff.com
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