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  • Steven Robinson
    Steven Robinson

    What to Do When an Apology for Bullying Goes Unacknowledged

    One of the most difficult things a person can go through is being held responsible for bullying someone in the past. Even if the behavior has long since been abandoned and sincere regret sincerely expressed, the weight of that memory can be painful and hard to reconcile. It can cause both parties to relive the trauma and pain of it, sometimes even long after the event has passed. Such is the case for one individual who apologized for bullying a girl during high school, only to now have her revisiting it with serious consequences that threaten to blow up his life.

    It is never easy to confront our hurtful pasts, especially when it involves treating someone unfairly, but it is an important step to take. When someone apologizes, they are signaling that they have reflected on the wrong they have done and are genuinely taking responsibility for their actions. Taking ownership of its consequences allows for the healing process to begin. It can also help move toward forgiveness, which can ignite a deep level of understanding between the two parties, allowing for a sense of peace to descend where previously the wounds were still raw.

    In this situation, however, the girl has not responded with forgiveness or understanding; she is instead lashing out at her former bully in an effort to reclaim the power she had lost. Feeling threatened and exposed by being confronted with her actions, she has resorted to aggression and manipulation, intent on hurting her target as much as she felt she had been hurt. It is understandable but no less unacceptable.

    So what can be done if the apology has already been offered and seemingly rejected? The first step is to ensure one’s safety. Depending on the circumstances, it might be advisable to contact the police. If there is evidence the girl is attempting to exact revenge through any method (including cyberbullying), then further steps can be taken for protection.

    The next step would be to actively reach out to her. This does not mean going directly to her. Rather, it could involve talking to people close to her: friends, family, or loved ones. It might also include a note detailing the sincerity of the original apology and the harm the girl has garnered in the aftermath, even if unintentional.

    The main goal of the message should be to express regret without trying to undo what has already been done. Acknowledging one’s culpability, along with catering to the initial apology, is the best way to reach out in this delicate situation. As a gesture of good faith, offering to help in any way possible (such as by participating in a volunteer activity or simply donating money) is a sign of empathy and further attestation of the commitment made.

    It is understandable to feel afraid and helpless in this scenario. However, it is important to not give in to a reaction of lashing out in kind. Instead, take a deep breath and thoughtfully approach the situation in such a way as to find a resolution that both parties can agree upon. Understanding the underlying pain and standing our ground is the best way forward.

    Bullying is a serious issue with often irreversible consequences. In cases where an apology has been offered, it is important that both parties put forth the effort required for closure and healing. Even if forgiveness never comes and the damage still remains, the ultimate aim of moving forward must be maintained.

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