I turn 50 today and this past week has given occasion for me look back on five decades of my life. Some of that reflection has been filled with joy about the memories and people who have colored the tapestry of my journey. However, some of what nostalgia has wrought is echoes of mistakes and feelings of regret. Some say there is little or no value in looking backward. The Scriptures even say to forget what lies behind and strain forward to what is ahead (Philippians 3:13-14). So why look back?
In part I’ve needed to reflect on the past in order to recall the innumerable ways I have been blessed with family, friends and experiences. I’m prone to forgetting how fortunate I’ve been, and then in a “mid-life” moment wondering if my life has amounted to much over the last half century. The Israelites set up their “Ebenezer” (stone of help) monument to remind themselves of God’s faithfulness (1 Samuel 7:12-14); so remembering the past is a good thing.
The Scriptures also speak of reflecting on how we’ve mistreated others. Jesus said that if we’re offering a sacrifice and remember that if we’re at odds with someone, we’re to leave our gift at the altar and go reconcile first before worshipping God (Matthew 5:23-24). I am standing at the proverbial altar, offering the balance of my life to God, and I am humbled by sorrow. Not simply for the foolishness of youth, but sorrow for the people I’ve hurt along the way.
And yet it is likely impossible for me to track down this frighteningly long list of folks. As well, a few years back I “sensed” that I needed to apologize to someone to whom I was cruel when I was a youngster. When I did get in touch with this person, they not only didn’t remember me but also thought my contacting them was crazy and creepy. So much for my spiritual “sixth sense” of things.
So perhaps you can appreciate my reluctance to make a bunch of calls or send a slew of emails. However, in this half century place of reflection, I’d like to publicly acknowledge the following and hope that if you come by this online you’d: (a) be encouraged by my recognition that what I did was my fault and not yours; and (b) you’d feel free to contact me if you’d like to share a specific hurt that I’ve caused. I’d be pleased to beg your forgiveness in person.
- I have spent most of my life trying to feel important and get others to acknowledge this to my satisfaction (which can never be done…but that’s another subject for another day). This means that I’ve put my needs ahead of yours. That could have manifested itself by me not paying attention when you needed a listening ear, or by me interjecting my opinions and myself into conversations awkwardly, or simply by me being an egotistical fool who never missed an opportunity to mention my accomplishments or “one up” yours. Forgive me, please.
- I have a razor sharp tongue and that means that I’ve abused many people by what I’ve said. My own insecurities have led me often to attempt to elevate my sense of value by tearing another person down. I have said things to you or about you in person or behind your back (and perhaps you found out about it) that have been hurtful. I beg that you’d forgive my selfishness and verbal abuse.
- Sadly, as a single young man in my quest for ego and physical satisfaction, I used women. While the sexual activity was always consensual, I certainly wasn’t putting the needs of others ahead of my own. Instead I was selfishly seeking physical pleasure, and often under the false pretense that I loved those women or would love them. I obviously didn’t. By my selfishness I may have caused emotional pain and scars that I will never be able to completely fathom. From the bottom of my heart, I apologize.
Ironically, my public apology itself could be seen as an act of vanity. I mean, just how important do I imagine I am that anyone would consider an offense by me something that would negatively affect him or her for years? I must think quite a bit of myself to presume that anyone has kept me in mind at all, let alone be searching online for my name or an apology, right? Well, I suppose that appearing vain is a risk I’ll have to take if I possibly can facilitate healing in the heart of even one person I may have hurt.
And if the only thing standing in the way of easing your pain is my willingness to humiliate myself publicly, then so be it. If no one is looking for this, no one remembers me, or no one reads my blog, than nothing is ultimately lost.
Here’s hoping that on my 75th birthday the list of offended people over the next 25 years is considerably shorter.