Is it ever wrong to apologize or make reparations to others?

So, I know that in confession we are forgiven for everything, provided we have the firm resolution to not sin again and we don’t intentionally withhold confessing a sin. However, I also know we have a duty to make reparations whenever possible.

Way back in grade school, and this was some 20 years ago now, I wound up being, well, kind of a bully. It wasn’t how I was raised, and I wasn’t always that way, but it was an effort to be “cool,” get in good with the popular kids. It didn’t really last (what goes around comes around). By high school I was already a different person. Of course, I’m an even more different person now, but I guess that goes with growing older, huh? I don’t know what I really knew about mortal and venial sin at the time - I was so young, and lacking a full understanding of that, it probably wasn’t mortal. Intellectually, I know that. Doesn’t mean it wasn’t wrong though.

As the years passed, I began more fully participating in my faith, which of course meant regular confessions (thankfully!). Honestly, I didn’t always think about my wrongdoing in my grade school years; it was long ago forgiven, though I finally did realize I should mention it in confession, which I did.

Anyway, I’m not posting this out of a fear of still being in sin. Whatever was there was taken care of a long time ago. However, now I’m focusing on the reparations. So, I found a few people on Facebook I felt I had been wrong towards way back when, and sent them an apology. I didn’t go into extreme detail, just said that I was wrong and that I was sorry for being unkind to them so long ago. I haven’t heard back from a few of them yet, though one guy (who I bullied, and later, he bullied me) was cool; he understood we were just kids, we talked for a bit, and it was nice. We actually became FB friends.

However, there was one girl I apologized to that, while I wasn’t her main focus (a few of the other guys were apparently REALLY awful to her), did bear some anger towards me. She brought up some things that I honestly don’t remember - though I don’t doubt her recollection. All I could do was apologize again and tell her I’m not who I once was. I’m not sure how helpful that can be, but I felt it was something I had to do.

But now I’m wondering: Should I have said anything to anyone at all? After 20 years? We were such young kids! I didn’t realize until after this girl’s message that I could be digging up some old, painful memories. Of course that was never my intention!

So, my question is: Is it ever wrong to apologize? To attempt to make reparations? IS there ever a point where something in the past should just be left there?

This reminds me of the common step nine from 12-step programs: “Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”

This step requires proper thought and planning. Take it to prayer. You may need to consult a trustworthy person such as your pastor to discuss before making additional amends. Don’t expect forgiveness from the person you have harmed. But by making the attempt you have done what you could and can let go of the guilt.

I commend you for reaching out. It was not an easy thing to do.



No, it certainly wasn’t easy. Eventually I just had to suck it up and decide to do what I thought was right by Christ. I waited too long to make this happen.

I don’t necessarily need forgiveness from others; I mean, that would be nice, but it’s Christ’s forgiveness that concerns me. My fear here is that I have reopened old wounds and lead another person (or persons) to a state of unforgiveness. That worries me for them. The girl replied back to me this morning, with a response that was a little insulting, a little passive aggressive. I can take that though, and I remained respectful in my replies - the conversation seems closed now, and reopening it would be a bad idea all around. I probably should have been a better witness to God’s call for us to forgive, not for me but for her, but hindsight is 20/20. I did the best I could at the time.

Flip, looks like your conscious is speaking loudly and you have no choice but to listen, can’t see how that’s a bad thing. Now, apologies after 20 years? That’s going to take a bit of a judgement call. Of course, we can reach that far back into our lives and make amends, but those bumps have probably been long forgotten. though, there is merit in your actions.

What we do when we acknowledge the wrong-doings against another is to acknowledge that there was something wrong. In that wrong, there’s an obligation to “make it right”. Though, to make it right takes on many different forms. We can replace a broken vase, repair a hole in the wall, but we can’t take back words or actions. Thus, how can we make things right when it’s not rightable?

  1. Say sorry to acknowledge that something went wrong
  2. ask for forgiveness as we are contrite and repentant
  3. repair, replace, repay, restore, or replenish in any way possible
  4. accept the punishment, or the effects of the wrong

In my personal opinion, thought 20 years is a reach, your thoughtful consciousness is reaching back and trying to repair the damage, in effect, you are addressing your temporal punishments of the wrongs you committed, even if you were aware or not of the severity of the wrong, but at least you’d have enough of an idea of the wrong as you’re reaching back to correct the wrong … so I see good, good, and good all around.

So, keep up the good work! bring up those corrections to each and every day, don’t wait another 20 years to apologize, lol (just joking around)

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Thanks so much. I didn’t explicitly ask for forgiveness from anyone; I kept the focus on my apology. Maybe I should have worded things differently.

I know 20 years is a long time, and I guess I should have considered that I could possibly be reopening some old wounds. Still, even after all this time, I think it’s better to apologize. Maybe because, bad stuff aside, I remember so much from my formative years, and a lot of it is what makes me me today.

I still feel like I’ve got some apologizing to do. More along the lines of my high school years. Luckily, I don’t recall things being as bad then, though there were moments. It’s a process, and it doesn’t get any easier; I’ve just got to continue to work up my nerve!

I asked this very same question to a priest in confession. The thing is my best friend now, wasn’t always my best friend. And I made jokes to him in high school. It is very embarrasing for me to come up to him with that now. Fortunately the priest told me it was not necessary.

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You meant well, but to be honest, I would not be approaching people on social media or through mail or email unless they reached to me first. If you both happened to be at a school reunion or ran into each other in a restaurant, then you might apologize to them in person and you could also gauge their reaction, like if they looked uncomfortable then you could back off.

One of the things I find very intrusive about email and social media is the ease with which people from your past who you did not like or get on with can find you again and contact you. Facebook has a helpful “block” feature that I have used along with several other self-protections to prevent this. Despite this, I have had one intrusive person who caused a great deal of upset back in the day in my high school life find my professional work profile on the Web and contact me through that (not to apologize but to invite me to some gathering and brag about themself). Not what I want to see in my work email box first thing in the morning, and it went straight to the trash unanswered.

I also had a neighbor and grade school classmate visit my childhood home many years ago when my parents were living there but I had long since moved away. He was wanting my contact info which my mom would not give him as I had not seen this person for at least 15 years and he ended up leaving a very long apology letter with Mom for making fun of me in school as a child. He was obviously in some 12 step or similar program and trying to make amends. I was frankly somewhere between embarrassed and not knowing what to do because this guy remembered things I had long since forgotten and I had not been very much affected by his schoolyard antics when they were going on. I never felt bullied as a child, I could make a crack right back or ignore it, and this guy was barely on my radar and I forgot about him pretty much as soon as we all graduated and went to different high schools. There didn’t seem to be a nice way to say “uh, thanks but it was no big deal and I haven’t thought about it or you in years” so I just put the letter away and did not respond.

I realize every situation is different and some people are really hurt by schoolmates and would like an apology, so do pray on it…here is an interesting article on the subject I read last week.

Definitely an interesting article, thank you.

Boy, I sure didn’t intend to be intrusive. I figured I have a duty, and the means of reaching out, so why not take the chance and let the chips fall where they may.

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I probably would appreciate an apology for some of the mean things that happened to me in school. But it would surprise me if it did happen.

It’s too bad the girl wasn’t able to see where you were coming from, and wasn’t able to issue a nice response. I would just say an extra prayer for her. And make a general reparation to somebody else in lieu.

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