30

This happened two decades ago where one of my roommates was friendly to me. But, I was rash, rude and had a condescending attitude and never acknowledged her friendly gestures. She helped me when I was ill but I was too ashamed of myself to thank her.

Later, during my stay with her, everybody else understood what kind of a person I was and I was left alone. I never had any friends. Karma got back to me and one day she behaved in the same way that I behaved with her. It was not intentional from her end, but I guess it was more of tit-for-tat.

I am still ashamed of myself for that kind of behavior. I have grown up and in the last 10-15 years, I have never put any of my friends or roommates under such conditions.

Now, I understand that life is short and I need to apologize to her, personally or through a telephonic conversation. I have no idea where she lives, but I can get that information through social media. But, I truly resent my behavior during that period of time. I do not intend to give any reason for my behavior. I understand that it would deviate the original intention and would come across as an excuse rather than an apology.

I have tried to list out possible outcomes, if I ever talk to her.

  • She might not be remotely interested in talking to me.
  • She might ignore my apology.
  • She might talk to me as a mere courtesy.
  • She might forgive me with a big heart.

Or anything else that I cannot think of at this moment.

How can I personally apologize to her?

  • 4
    With your question I just want to clarify one thing: Even all that time, you can still make contact with that said roommate right? How do you plan to make that contact? Real life or through any messaging system? – OneEyedBandit Feb 1 '18 at 10:36
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    @OneEyedBandit I was planning to use social media. Yes, I want to make a contact through messaging system. But, I want to personally apologize to her, either in person or through telephone. – user149332 Feb 1 '18 at 10:47
  • 2
    @Tinkeringbell If I were in her place and if anyone wanted to apologize to me, I would forgive them so that they are at peace. – user149332 Feb 1 '18 at 10:50
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    @LioElbammalf One of the user here has mentioned that 'Independently of her reaction, apologize.' I guess, that works for me. – user149332 Feb 1 '18 at 12:44
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    @user149332 what YOU would do, especially with 10-15 years to think about it, if someone apologized to you is NOT relevant. Please, do not go into this with expectations of how she should react. – user3316 Feb 1 '18 at 16:18

14 Answers 14

31

If you are like me, you will live with that remorse forever. Hell, I still remember stupid stuff I did as a kid and never had the chance to apologize and set it free...

My advice is to do what you (and I agree with) think it's right.

Independently of her reaction, apologize.

This will bring two things:

  • Peace of mind to you - you did what's right: admit your mistakes and notice what you did wrong and who you offended and say sorry.
  • You cannot force her to forgive you, that's her decision to make. Although, you will look a better person to her, since even after that time, you admitted your mistakes.

Go ahead: Say hello, apologize for your previous actions and offer a coffee or drink if you feel like it. If she accepts your apologies and / or invitation, nice for you. If she doesn't, you at least now have your peace of mind. Don't live with that guilt any more.

Best of luck to you.

  • 6
    I'd leave out the offer of a coffee thb. If the OP offers that and she declines (because it's all kinds of awkward or she may have zero interest in reliving the old times or having more contact) then he's quite likely to get himself into a stew about whether any forgiveness she offered was real or just a way of getting him to go away. – Spagirl Feb 1 '18 at 12:52
  • @Spagirl I see what you mean, I just added a way for the OP to be nice, but that can happen. – OneEyedBandit Feb 1 '18 at 12:54
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    I've been on the receiving end of this. I had a big argument with a housemate, and we left things on very bad terms when we all moved out. I happened to meet him in a bar, quite by accident, years later. As soon as he recognised me, he came over and said, with very little preamble, that he'd felt guilty about his behaviour ever since, and wanted to apologise. He seemed very sincere about it, so I accepted his apology. He offered to buy me a drink, we chatted over a pint, and parted ways. Never saw him again, but it's safe to say we both felt a little better afterwards. – anaximander Feb 1 '18 at 15:09
  • @anaximander This is the message I wanted to pass – OneEyedBandit Feb 1 '18 at 15:10
15

It sounds like your desire to apologise is sincere. If only she could read your question here as written.

I don't think anybody can second-guess her response. Any of the outcomes you list are a possibility.

Too many apologies come out like excuses. Don't attempt to say that you acted the way you did because of x,y or z.

The thing you want to get across right away is what you have already said in your question above:

I was wrong.

No excuses. You say you are ashamed of your behaviour, you wouldn't behave like that now, so tell her that you were wrong. If she only gives you the briefest moment to talk, you can get that across.

I hope it goes well for you.

  • 1
    Yes. I understand that excuses deviate the entire purpose of an apology. I do not intend to give her any excuse. Yes, I will be straight to the point. I have edited the same in my question. – user149332 Feb 1 '18 at 10:54
  • 1
    Well put. Too many people offer explanations in their apology, weakening it. Keep it short, admit what you did and that it was wrong, and then wait for the response. That's all there is to it. You may never be able to repair the relationship, but that shouldn't be the goal here; it should be a possible benefit. Your goal in an apology is acknowledge your error and express that you are sorry for it. – baldPrussian Feb 1 '18 at 12:49
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    Agreed. I would add that OP should make sure to be accepting of whatever her reaction is. Make clear that you want to apologise because it’s the right thing to do, not because you want the apology accepted. You were wrong and are now doing the best you can to fix that: apologise and leave her alone. If she wants to forgive and continue the conversation, that’s her choice, but it should be clear that your only motive is to correct an error. – user137369 Feb 1 '18 at 15:12
13

Forgive yourself first.

From reading your comments, it sounds like you are wanting her forgiveness so you can be at peace. But this ignores the fact that you are the one in control of your life, and it is not her resentment that is holding you back right now.

You need to first, forgive yourself. Whatever you did, you need to learn to be at peace with yourself - it happened, it wasn't excusable, but it also was in the past. You need to be in a mindset to deal with the current version of you, and accept that you perhaps weren't a great person before - but that doesn't stop you from being a good person now.

Once you've forgiven yourself and have gained the "peace" that you're asking for - you can deal with the situation and help her address the past as well. Before this, asking for an apology is selfish - you are asking her to solve your problem, and remove your guilt for you.

Remember, you are responsible for your own happiness. It's up to you to forgive yourself, not her.

Apologise sincerely to help her

Once you have managed to become at peace with what you did (that may take just hours, but could take months), and fully forgiven yourself. You can now focus on whether or not you want to apologise.

The key thing with this apology is that it is to help her reduce her resentment if she has any, and help her move on with her life. Whether she accepts it or not should have no bearing on your happiness - it is a selfless act to help her and nothing else.

If you do then choose to apologise, I suggest writing it as a one-off letter that doesn't expect any response. Expect that this is fire-and-forget, and it will help to write down everything you feel she should know and what you want to tell her.

Focus on things such as; noting that you know how you acted was wrong, that you are sorry for having been like that and any harm it caused her.

Importantly though; do not take responsibility for her unhappiness - as much as you are responsible for forgiving yourself, she is responsible for moving on from this. Your letter is not to accept her burden as your own, as if that will somehow make your lives better - it is just to help give her closure on this, and nothing else.

Again, writing the apology may or may not be needed. I think it's important you evaluate whether what you're going to write will actually help her or just bring up unwanted feelings. But in either case, the apology should have nothing to do with your feelings - you need to solve those first.

  • 1
    This is just it. Personal checkmark here. While I have no real evidence that being Christian helps with this, there's a damn good reason so much of their theology centers on forgiveness, both of yourself and others. Grudges are poison, you need to get them out of your system ASAP. In my own personal experience, forgiving yourself is far harder. – T.E.D. Feb 2 '18 at 14:57
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    Forgive yourself first - very important step that is often overlooked and difficult to do but very rewarding and reassuring for one's peace of mind. This allows for a more sincere, external apology to another person. – Crosscounter Feb 2 '18 at 15:56
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    +1 Even complete forgiveness from others will not alleviate your guilt. Only YOU can alleviate YOUR guilt. This can be REALLY tough: one tactic is to devise and undergo a "penance" that YOU think is appropriate. It should be memorable enough that when you feel the guilt, you can remember your penance, and forgive yourself, again. – Glurth Jun 6 '18 at 17:31
4

Debase yourself! Honestly and sincerely, but with humor.

Say everything about yourself that she has, by virtue of your hurtful behavior, every right to say about you.

In your own choice of words, of course, but if it were me, I'd start with email or text, because it won't veer off course like a live conversation, so you can say what needs to be said.

Hi, it's Amadé, that insufferable idiot you used to know. The ungrateful jerk that never once thanked you for your care when I was sick. That selfish moron that did not deserve the kindness you showed to me. I know what I was, I feel shame for my thoughtless behaviors, and if I could speak to you I would like to tell you I am sorry. Not for such easy forgiveness, I won't ask for that and you have every right to withhold it. But if you do have one last kindness left for me, it would be to let me admit my guilt to the person I wronged. I have no other motive and I am sincere, I'd like your permission to call and apologize.
Amadé.

Something like that. For one, it doesn't blindside her, a call out of the blue she is not prepared to answer. In fact, any forgiveness achieved by such a call is likely false, a reflexive response of a kind person to "sorry", that upon reflection they realize they don't mean. Forgiveness should not be so easily won!

"I'm sorry I tripped you on the stairs, twenty years ago, and you broke your arm."
"Oh it's okay."
Wait a minute, that's not okay at all. I didn't break my arm, You broke my arm, and laughed at me when you did it. What the hell am I saying?

Let her know the context of the phone call before you make it, and if she does not give you permission to call, don't do it. Forgiveness is not something we deserve, it is a gift that can only be given by the person wronged, and we should not resent them if they do not give us a gift we do not deserve.

There is no such thing as forgiving yourself for something you did to another person, that is theft of a gift they did not wish to give, and just another transgression against them.

Sometimes we just have to live with the psychic scars of the fact that we hurt somebody else. Our only consolation is to try to have lived our lives having done more good than evil, given more help than harm, and more hope than hate.

If you say about yourself what she has the right to say about you, at least she knows it was said and you accept it. Don't quibble about it or diminish it with excuses or caveats or redirection of blame. Present it as an unqualified wrong.

  • 3
    IMHO, debasing yourself and humor works better in person. I would not consider this approach if its over a text message. A humble apology with enough hints of self realization is the best way to go about, maybe add a thoughtful gift too. – surajck Feb 1 '18 at 14:40
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    @surajck Your position is worth considering, and I did before I wrote my reply. But the insurmountable problem I see is that any 'surprise' approach in person, after twenty years, is likely too much of a shock for the offended party to process and respond to with calm and sincerity. I don't think such an ambush ends well for both parties, it might very well get the offender some concession they want, but at the additional emotional expense of the offended. That is my humble opinion. – Amadeus Feb 1 '18 at 15:01
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    Humour can easily backfire in this situation. She might understand it as sarcasm and as OP not being sorry at all; or worse, wanting to rub in her face how not sorry he is. – user137369 Feb 1 '18 at 15:06
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    @user137369 It could. The phrasing I used is what I would say, and if it comes across wrong, I'd have to live with the consequences of being denied the chance to apologize in person. I said specifically the OP should debase herself in her own words, if she thinks humor is out of place, she can omit it. I would not suggest humor throughout, and there is no humor after the first 3 lines, once I say I felt shame, which is a structure that should defuse any sense of sarcasm. The humor is in beginning with insulting my former self without excuse to recount my real sins and justify a plea for mercy. – Amadeus Feb 1 '18 at 16:01
4

Well done for taking the step to make amends.

Why do you really want to apologise? It is an question you need to ask yourself and answer honestly because your question is very 'me-centric', there is not a lot in there about her life being a misery or causing her pain or distress.

"I need to apologize"

"get her forgiveness"

"Karma got back to me"

I would suggest that you need to apologise with the view of making her feel better instead getting her forgiveness. As for forgiveness, she can forgive you all she wants but ultimately it comes down to you forgiving yourself, the only way you can truly forgive yourself is by doing it entirely for her benefit. Treat it like a recovering alcoholic making apologies to those that he/she hurt in the past, this is not about you, this is about her and regardless of whether she forgive you or not, if you do it selflessly it makes forgiving yourself a lot easier. Be selfless and be prepared to suck up everything she throws at you or, possibly even worse, you may not even register, you could have been forgotten as an idiot she once knew. This whole incident may be massive and all-consuming to you and not even a blip in her memory. Ultimately forgive yourself.

Good luck.

3

To answer your question on how to apologize, it's better to do it over a call and not in person. It's been a really long time so it may not be good to drop in and talk when you don't even know if she'd like to talk to you.

Get her phone number and call her. Don't beat about the bush, just tell her that you called to apologize for your past actions. Accept that you have made your mistakes and are now ashamed of the same. Say sorry with as much humility as you can. If you sound remorseful enough and if she really feels that you have changed, there's a good chance of her accepting your apology. Depending on how that conversation goes, you can visit her personally and talk / catch up on latest happenings in your lives.

However, personally, I wonder why even do it - Is it to unburden yourself of some guilt or do you want to be friends again? It's been 20 years, an apology wouldn't help her at this point. She might be busy with her own family so there's a very less chance she would want to talk or even meet a person who made her life miserable however long ago. I know I would never ever want to meet any of my school bullies, even if they turned out to be model citizens now. If someone were to apologize to me, i would probably say 'It's okay, it's been a long time' to stop that awkward conversation but I wouldn't really forgive them.

I know each person is different and your ex roommate might be a forgiving person but even then, it would be difficult for you guys to try and start any kind of friendship.

  • Yes. I thought of it as well. What would I do if a bully I know were to apologize to me for their actions? I would probably say 'It's okay' or depending on the situation/tone, I might genuinely forgive them or pretend to forgive so that they are at peace. With roomie that I am talking about, I do not intend to start any kind of friendship nor do I have any ulterior motive. It is a genuine apology. I have this feeling that before I leave this world for good, I have to apologize whom I have hurt. And that is truly for my peace. – user149332 Feb 1 '18 at 12:09
  • “It's been 20 years, an apology wouldn't help her at this point”. Maybe it will. Maybe OP is today a better person because of her and her kindness. Maybe in these 20 years she was mistreated by more people and gotten less friendly. Maybe being reassured her previous kindness made such an impact on OP he feels the need to apologise even after two decades will make her appreciate being kind even more, and reinforce in her mind that being kind is indeed worth it. – user137369 Feb 1 '18 at 15:02
  • @AytAyt That's nice to hear. I probably should've said 'apology may not' instead of 'wouldn't help' but I was just thinking of myself in that scenario when I worded it. I hope OP has a similar experience as yours and it gives both of them the peace and happiness they deserve. – svj Feb 2 '18 at 4:09
3

Let sleeping dogs lie

How can I personally apologize to her?

Here's a counterpoint to the views in the other answers.

After twenty years your ex-friend will likely have come to terms with that experience, put it out of mind and moved on in life. If so, it is quite possible that raising the memory again will cause her further pain and distress.

There is a possibility that your seeking her out in this way will seem like stalker activity.

You should not use her as a tool to assuage your own guilt. You should not use any kind of emotional blackmail, implied or explicit, to pressure her into doing things to make you feel better.

I need to apologize to her

Maybe you should not be focussing on what you need, but on what she needs.

Maybe she doesn't need anything from you other than to stay out of her life.

3

Getting in contact with people from the past is not my strong suit, see other answers about that, but when you get to the apology say something along these lines:

There's no excuse for how I behaved. I was a shitty person towards you. I'm terribly sorry.

Say that you're sorry, but don't ask her forgiveness. Asking her forgiveness is to ask her to do something for you and that's selfish. I think her forgiveness will be more sincere if your apology is selfless.

Ultimately, the only person's forgiveness you really need is your own. Twenty years ago you were younger and more stupid and a different person from who you are today. Recognizing this fact is key to getting over most of the past's shames.

2

Well done on coming to the realisation that your previous behaviour was wrong. It speaks well for you that you want to make amends.

A couple of things for you to think about:

  • She most probably hasn't thought of you in years, but it is just possible that her experience of you changed the way she interacted with other people in her life. She might not be happy about that and she might unload a world of recrimination on you. How would you feel in that situation?
  • Words are cheap, what might you do to show that your regret is sincere? You already mentioned karma, is there anything in your life you can point to which demonstrates the works and deeds you have carried out to build good karma? If there isn't, can you tell her what you are going to do going forward? Can you commit to volunteering with a charity like Big Brothers Big Sisters or something similar?

In short, what can you do to prove to her that this isn't just about making you feel better?

1

Just apologize. It won't cost you anything and it won't hurt anyone.

BUT, do not try to list all possible reactions and get prepared. That's not how honest apologies work. If you prepare for each outcome it's a calculated apology. You take all the leverage from the person you try to apologize to, rendering the apology artificial.

0

You are doing this for two people:

1) your old roommate
She may or may not care or remember how you treated her. She probably will remember, but after so much time, any sting will have abated somewhat. She may or may not appreciate/accept your apology. It sounds like she was very nice to you in the past, so my guess is she will accept it.

2) yourself
This is to put yourself at peace and "fix" your wrongs. This is the most important part, since it obviously means a lot to you. All you can do is make the effort to reach out, apologize sincerely. Don't explain yourself unless she asks you specifically. Don't rationalize anything, just be sincere. And that should hopefully come across.

I had something similar happen to me. Apparently, I made a negative comment about a girl who had liked me in high school. Maybe five years later, in college, a friend told me about the comment I made and how bad it was. I remembered making the comment, and the guilt was just awful. I had to get in touch with the girl and "make it right". So, I did my best to track her down, tried to communicate with her, and I didn't hear back. Not sure if she got my message or just ignored it, but you do what you can. You can't always fix every situation.

The worst thing you can do here is doing nothing. Take action and you will feel better. Good luck!

-1

I know there are already loads of answers. So, I'll make mine simple and concise.

Unless you happen to encounter the person at a public venue, you don't want to initiate the approach in any way that is obtrusive. All the more so because it seems that she never had any open demand for an apology or for amends waiting in the air, so to say.

  1. Regain contact with the person. This may require asking around. If so, then any person with whom you request assistance would also be privy to at least some of the information in the third step.
  2. State that you wish to make amends. Do this first so that it opens the entire interaction and sets the tone.
    Do not say that you wish to apologize: that will come later, if the person wants to hear it. An apology is an explanation of why or how you were wrong, and is not merely a simple statement of your recognizing that. Indeed, by actually doing all this, such should be patently obvious to the other person.
  3. Provide a reminder of the situation for context. Keep the reminder brief so that the person doesn't procrastinate or even ignore it.
  4. Wait for response.

As an example, it could go something like this:

Hello, I would like to make amends with you for being such a horrible jerk of a roommate so many years ago. I wouldn't be surprised if you don't remember, but if you do, then please let me know what I could do to make things right with you.

I guess you could attach a frowny–face emoticon there if you'd like, but I'd recommend against it. I dunno — maybe she'd appreciate something like that. You'd know better than I.

As for forgiveness, and all that … It really is a dense concept that gets bandied about and misunderstood by so many people. Any questions and answers in that regard should really be posed in the philosophic or religious Stack Exchanges.

-1

Bitter but practical

Sorry, But things will never be the same. The best thing you can do is apologize and let her know that you meant it. I don't know what her response will be. Its been long. She must have adapted new life style, in which your existence may or may not matter at all. But for the sake of your own inner peace, you need to admit it to her. It may have one of the two consequences,

  • After certain interval, you people can have conversations under the shadow of the bad past, which will still lead to frictional conversations.
  • She will choose not to forgive you and get on with it.

Either way, you will be at peace as you have done your part.

But I wish she accept your apology, Real friends are hard to find.

-1

You may want to do something a bit more old-fashioned. Draft out a brief personal statement of apology to her. Write it out in longhand and sign it. Then mail it (I'm assuming you can get a reliable postal address). Mail it to her, then forget it. It will be up to her to acknowledge or ignore your letter, but the time and effort you took to apologize will certainly not go unnoticed and will speak to your sincerity.

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