Hearing first hand how my actions hurt someone nearly 30 years ago wasn’t the most uncomfortable part of the conversation.
Not even close.
What stung the most was the fact this person could recite the hurtful words I called her verbatim.
As quickly and as callously they flew from my mouth, they were long gone and forgotten. Like a bomb that inflicts damage on impact while the plane safely flies away.
But for her they lingered. Etched in memory all these years.
When I called her an “MR”, the neighbor kids knew it stood for “Mental Retard”. Maybe such language was funny to a 10-year old boy. But it wasn’t to a young girl. And that was just the start.
How could I have been so mean? I never considered myself a bully. But I’m now forced to consider how inappropriate my actions were to this person who was shy and never tossed hurtful comments in my direction.
What is the appropriate response? I wasn’t sure so I sat back and listened. What I learned was that this wasn’t a one time occurrence. My behavior took place over a number of years.
When she finished, I wasn’t sure what to say. How do I apologize for 30 years worth of hurt?
“I feel so bad. Is it too late to say I’m sorry?”
“Of course not”
And with that the forgiveness process began. There’s no statute of limitations when it comes to asking for forgiveness.
I wouldn’t have blamed her if she decided to get this off her chest and then move on, wanting nothing to do with me again.
But she gave me a second chance. That it came many years later makes no difference. Not everyone gets a second chance. Especially in friendships.
So I will embrace this one.
Because today I not only learned a valuable lesson, I may have gained a friend, 30 years in the making.