The Power of Saying, “I’m Sorry”
It’s really easy to call someone a bully, but it’s not so easy to be called a bully yourself. We’ve all made mistakes in our lives – sometimes when we were kids and didn’t know better, and sometimes when we’re adults and really should. Making mistakes is part of being human, but realizing we’ve made a mistake and not doing anything about it compounds the problem. Taking responsibility for our actions and apologizing can make a world of difference, not only for the person who was bullied, but also for the bully themselves.
Recently, at a school assembly, I asked the kids to think of someone they need to apologize to. I encouraged them to seek out this person to say they were sorry and to make it up. Immediately after the presentation a brave young woman who was a victim of bullying but also a bully herself told me her story.
“In grades 7 and 8 I was a bully. Right now I really regret that. Every day for the full year in grade 7 I would kick him and he would have bruises on his shins. Now I feel bad. He was petrified of me. In grade 8 I did say I was sorry but I didn’t mean it. But now I see that my actions could cause him to do really bad things. I am very sorry.” Shortly after speaking to this young woman I received an e-mail saying that she had tracked down the young man to apologize.
Saying, “I’m sorry.” is one of the most important things that we can do, not only for the person we hurt, but for ourselves. In an article on the power of apology in Psychology Today, author Beverly Engel talks about the benefits of apologizing. For the person on the receiving end, an apology contributes to “emotional healing when he is acknowledged by the wrongdoer” and “helps us to move past our anger and prevents us from being stuck in the past.” On the giver’s side, “the debilitating effects of the remorse and shame we may feel when we’ve hurt another person can eat away at us until we become emotionally and physically ill. By apologizing and taking responsibility for our actions we help rid ourselves of esteem-robbing self-reproach and guilt.”
When my daughter, Amanda, was bullied I secretly dreamed that the girls who did it would one day call her up and tell her they were sorry. Two of her childhood friends apologized on her last day of school, but her best friends walked away without a word. Two of the girls she was physically frightened of from the second school let her know in their own way that they were no longer a threat, but I’m not sure an apology will ever happen. I know that an apology will not erase the hurt, however I do know that it can help remove the anger and start the healing – healing that needs to take place for both the person who hurt and the person who was hurt.
Laurie Flasko, CSP, teaches and challenges her audiences through her own life’s example. For more information about Laurie and her work, visit her website at www.laurieflasko.com. To order a copy of Bullying is NOT a Game. A Parents’ Survival Guide visit www.bullyingisnotagame.com or follow Laurie on Facebook at Bullyingisnotagame.
Contact Laurie to speak to parents, kids, teachers, mental health professionals at firstname.lastname@example.org 905-357-2345
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