Apologizing for Bullying

A couple of years ago, as my high school graduating class was preparing for the 25-year reunion, I got messages from a couple of people apologizing for bullying me or for not sticking up for me in high school.

The ones who apologized for bullying me hadn’t actually done so, in my perception. They weren’t necessarily nice to me, but they didn’t outright bully me. No one who actually bullied me has acknowledged they did anything wrong. Some have actually said that it was “just kid stuff” and I need to “get over it”.

I’ve posted before that bullying is not necessarily something you can “just get over.” When you spend five days a week, 30-something weeks a year, being insulted, called names, and basically told you’re worthless and don’t matter to anyone, it leaves one hell of an impression. Especially if, as in my case, that’s all you hear, you don’t have anyone telling you differently.

I’ve heard from other people who were bullied in school that they’ve had bullies apologize to them…and those bullies have then gotten angry when the apology wasn’t accepted.

It’s cool to say to someone “I’m sorry for the way I treated you.” At least, it’s cool if you’re saying it because you mean it, and because you recognize that you might have wronged that person in some way and wish you hadn’t done so. And if you receive an apology, it’s cool if you want to say, “I accept your apology.”

But it’s also cool to say, “Thanks for the apology, but I don’t accept.” You might have forgiven the person for bullying you. You might have put it all in the past. You might not even remember the person. But that’s something you’ve done for *you*. It doesn’t mean you have to accept the apology, because that’s something you would be doing for *them*. Accepting an apology isn’t the same thing as moving on or forgiving, because moving on and forgiving are things you do for yourself, while accepting an apology is more for the benefit of the person apologizing.

I’m talking specifically about bullying here because that’s what was on my mind as I sat down to write this post, but the above applies to any apology. An apology, in my opinion, should be given as an acknowledgment of wrongdoing; and should be accepted only if the person receiving it *wants* to accept it.

So if someone who has bullied you comes to you and says they’re sorry, you aren’t obligated to say “I accept” or “It’s okay” or anything like that. If it’s what you *want* to say, great. But if you want to say, “Nope, not accepted, you were crappy to me,” that’s okay too.