Share a time when you were overcome with guilt. What were the circumstances? How did you overcome you guilt?
Guilt is a strange thing. A person might embezzle millions and feel no remorse, but have a plagued conscience for stealing a piece of candy from a classmate’s desk in the first grade a half century later.
I was a jock in school, but enjoyed the company of everyone. It was easy for me to move in and out of social groups and cliques. In this way I got to know a lot of people. Some of my most memorable friendships were with those who didn’t belong to any clique. To many, they were nameless and faceless. I always wanted to know their story so to speak. To me everyone was fascinating.
I liked the smart kids. I liked the dumb kids. I liked the poor kids. I liked the hoods. I liked the unpopular kids. I liked the rich kids. I liked the preppies. And what was amazing is that they welcomed me into their circles.
Only one group did not. I don’t know what to call them or what name they have for the sake of classification. So I’m going to give them a name – the “fems.” The group of guys who acted and carried themselves as feminine. The thought never entered my mind for a moment that they were gay. They just acted feminine.
I recall just trying to start a conversation with one of them on several occasions. It was as if I had dog doodoo on my shoe.
For the most part they gravitated toward the arts. I liked the arts and tried to talk to them on that level. It was like ‘nothing doing buddy, there’s something on the bottom of your shoe.’
I suppose that’s what started it. I began to make fun of them. I mocked them to the point of arousing their anger.
Everyone thought it was funny, but after a while I tired of it.
One day I said something particularly funny to them. It brought about an uproarious laughter. As everyone laughed I saw a look on the face of one of the “fems.” I did not see the intended results. It was sad. I wanted to immediately go to him and tell him how sorry I was. He didn’t deserve what I was doing. The laughter of the other kids, which I craved, turned into something like a hideous wailing of demons.
That moment was with me for years.
At my twentieth class reunion I saw one of the “fems.”
I sat next to him for a while. I asked questions about his life, his career, his family, and such. He never asked me one thing about my life. He still treated me with the same snobbish indifference of 20 some years earlier.
Finally I mustered up the courage to speak what was really in my heart.
“When we were sophomores,” I said. “I treated you and some of your friends pretty badly. It was wrong of me. It has bothered me for many years. I just want to express how sorry I am and apologize for my behavior.”
He smiled uncomfortably. “I don’t remember,” he said with the same air of superiority experienced from him years ago.
“I’m glad you don’t.,” I said and smiled. “I don’t want to carry that with me any longer. It looks like you have had a good career. Being a minister, could you tell me a little about your congregation?”
His face seemed to flatten and lose expression. It became cold and aloof. “I remember what you did quite well.”
“Again,” I said. “It was so unkind of me. I’m truly sorry.”
“Well you should be,” he said smugly and turned from me.
I stood and tapped him on the shoulder.
He turned and looked up at me. “What!”
As I think of those events so long ago it has hit me. In their own way the “fems” intellectually bullied and my retaliation was the only way I knew. And on the day of my apology he continued to bully me.
“On second thought,” I said. “I take it all back. Have a nice life.”
The truth is, I still regret those days that I mimicked, taunted, teased, and ridiculed five guys whose most distinguishable character flaw was thinking they were better than me… and others.
On the other hand my conscience is clear now. It’s been like a perpetual Christmas for me.
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