Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Making Amends for Past Mistakes

The purpose of this post is to take responsibility for my actions in the past - specifically as a teenager in high school - that may have hurt, humiliated, or intimidated others, and to apologize for my actions or inaction.

But first some context:

Jayson had an interesting post on his blog and an interesting challenge for the Revolutionary Men group at Facebook last week.
This week I challenge you to find an area in your past where you crossed a line with someone. You took advantage of them, wronged them, hurt them, manipulated them, or hurt them in some way.

For example, maybe your bullied someone in Jr. High. Maybe you hurt a girlfriend or boyfriend in an unnecessary way.

Next are 2 steps:

1. Own up to it. Own up to it with yourself first, then with them directly. Ideally, in person or over the phone. Publicly is another way.
2. Make amends and/or apologize

If you need further guidance, read my latest blog post to get the fire lit under you. Here\'s the link:


Lean in to this one people!

In his post, Jayson apologized to the people he hazed in college. Here is some of his admission:

The purpose of this post is to publicly apologize and to own up to three key mistakes I made while I was an undergraduate:

  1. I watched and did nothing as others were hazed, knowing inside that it was wrong.
  2. In turn, I betrayed my own integrity and hazed others. I manipulated, misled, shamed, and verbally and emotionally hurt other men.
  3. When I changed my tune and realized hazing was wrong, I “came out” against hazing in a very unskillful fashion.

In college I took part in hazing other men with the aim of unifying each pledge class and “making” pledges active members of my fraternity. A guy had to “earn” his way in, and dammit, I was going to make it hard for him. After all, I reasoned, I went through it, now he has to go through it too. I think the members achieved the desired outcome of unifying the pledge class, but the means with which we did it were plain wrong.

I had many justifications for my behavior. “It’s not really real.” “I didn’t mean the things I said to him.” “It was just a joke, all BS, just for fun.” “If this guy didn’t go through hell week, he’d still be an arrogant asshole. I put him in his place.” “It made him a man” and many, many other such rationalizations.

I was this guy, but in high school, and much worse.

The purpose of this post is to take responsibility for my actions as a teenager. I abandoned my own sense of right and wrong in order to be "cool," or to fit it, or simply to feel as though I had some power and control in my life. Many of my actions were unconscious, in that I did not realize at the time the harm I was causing, but that is not an excuse.

I am a big proponent of personal responsibility, and I believe that the only way to be a mature man is own my mistakes and make amends whenever possible. So here is my admission:

1. I treated friends badly and with little respect.
2. I used the young women who liked me to feel better about myself, with little concern for their feelings.
3. I wasted four years of my life in a fog of drugs and alcohol that left me insensitive, uncaring, and sometimes just plain mean.
4. I stood by while others were shamed, bullied, or humiliated, even laughed along with the bullies, when I knew what was happening was wrong.

I was a coward and a fool.
In doing these things, I hurt many people, including family and friends - for that I am truly sorry.

In many ways, I have been trying to make amends for these actions ever since I got sober and began to seek out a more compassionate life, so this is the formal apology to all the people I will never be able to contact personally.

I can never really make amends, but I can live a more compassionate and caring life - and that is my goal, both as an individual with my friends, and in my career.


Anonymous said...

Very courageous post, and we can all learn from it. Thank you.

revolutionaryman said...

Bill. Great post and thanks for following up in the facebook group. Our members need to hear from men like you.


WH said...

thanks guys!

Justice Marshall said...

Thanks for your leadership. Awesome. Touching. Inspiring.

David Franklin said...

Thanks for your vulnerability and openness. I made amends this past summer when doing 12-step work, and it was very humbling and freeing for me.

As there were some people I couldn't directly make amends with, I did a simple ritual of writing down the amends and burning them. It was a good way to set them free.

Also, don't forget to make amends with yourself; as men, we tend to overlook the ways we abuse and harm ourselves through our actions and behaviors.

May you be truly free! Thanks again for your courage and willingness.

Anonymous said...

When one is apologizing and trying to make amends for past bad behaviors, speaking generally, owning up to the fact that you aren't and haven't always been perfect is a very good first step, and doing so online in a blog is a beginning; but I would challenge you and anyone who honestly wants to make amends to speak more specifically, to confess with real openness of a particular time when you wronged someone and to do it to that person as directly as possible, either by telephone, or, even better, in person.

Making amends is really about YOU, not about the person to whom you apologize, and the only way to get the full benefit from it is to be as open and honest and truthful as possible to yourself about what you did.

What you have written here is a good start, but still very abstract.