DEAR HARRIETTE: I have had a lot of time to think about my life while I’ve been stuck at home. Recently, I have been having nightmares. Some of the things I did in my youth were just awful. As I have flashes of scenes when I was rude or downright mean to people, I shudder to think that was me. But it was. I think I was just trying to figure out relationships or how to get ahead in my work. Whatever it was, I am ashamed of myself for not being more thoughtful to the people around me. I feel like I should contact people and apologize for how I treated them, but I’m worried that this could cause them to have to relive these painful moments again. Or maybe it wasn’t so bad for them? I’m not sure what to do, but right now I feel overwhelmed with disgust over my behavior. -- Disgusted
DEAR DISGUSTED: It is good to take stock of your life and to address hurtful behaviors from your past. Before you reach out to people you have hurt, though, play the scenario all the way out. What benefit will your outreach have for them? And how best might they receive your amends? Some situations should remain buried.
In other cases, you might send a card saying you were thinking about the person and hope they are doing well as you also apologize for hurting them in the past. In certain instances, it may be right to call and talk to a person directly. If so, don’t dredge up the past. Just say that you are sorry for what you did that caused them pain.
Know that the first step is forgiving yourself for your hurtful behavior. From that posture of humility, you can make the effort to make amends. Know that you cannot control how people will respond.