Friday 25 May 2007

Facing Up to When You Are an Awful Person

Not everything that I've ever said or done in my life is something that I can look back on with pride.
Much if it, I certainly can't.

I am perfectly capable of being kind, generous and thoughtful.

I am also capable of being cruel, callous and vindictive.

I guess what really matters is how sorry we are when we look at the results of the second.

Here's a tale of a way I behaved in many years ago, which will haunt me for the rest of my life.

When I was a student, there was a lad lived in the same halls as a friend of mine. I'll call him Barry, though that wasn't his name.
Barry came out at University. This is a hard thing for anyone to do, especially in an environment that isn't as open minded and tolerant as it likes to think it is.
And at that point I was not as open minded, or tolerant as I liked to think.

Barry started having a relationship with a boy from the town. The boy in question was younger than him. It is a borderline issue, certainly in terms of ethics, but in retrospect, it can't have been easy for Barry at this time. His head was probably a little messed up.

We were out one Friday and Barry came up to talk to my friend. I blanked Barry.
When I reached for a cigarette, Barry asked me for one.
I remember my reply vividly, because at the time, I was proud of it.

'Did you just ask me for a fag, faggot?'
He looked shocked. I continued.
'Don't EVER ask me for a fag. Don't ever speak to me. Don't give people the impression we're friends, or that I even know you. You take yourself off over there. As far as I am concerned, you're filth. You are ruining the life of a boy who knows no better and you should be ashamed. So It wouldn't bother me too much if you took yourself outside and jumped off the f***ing pier.'

He departed, wordless.

I thought myself so superior.

Three months later, Barry stood in front of a train.

I don't suppose my words on their own made him do it, but I feel sure they were just another one of the straws that finally broke the camels back.

I can't forget that my last words to a man who ended up killing himself, were words which effectively told him to do just that.

And I have never apologised to anyone, because I don't know who to direct an apology to.

But one thing I do know. My life's not always been easy, but I have never even considered doing what he did.

The pain of his daily existence must have been unendurable, in a way I can't even comprehend.

And I was part of the problem, not the solution.

One of many awful actions I have to live with.


Anonymous said...

The only person you can apologise to is yourself. This post is a good step forward...

Anonymous said...

None of us are righteous, not even one. There's nothing I could say that would make this better... I'm sorry.

I understand perfectly what you mean, though... when I first found out my son's father was gay, I was perfectly hateful and cruel to him about it. I said some incredibly nasty things.

I have since apologized.

Deep down, we're inherently cruel and self-interested, I think. We have to consciously fight that.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I am extremely righteous- but that's why I am God.

Anonymous said...

Nope, you have now offloaded the awful reality of your words...but I am betting that Barry had tried many a self harm tactic before this conversation.
Do not blame yourself, just forgive yourself. Nothing can hurt Barry any more, he is no longer here.
Be good to yourself.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Dave. The only person you need to aplogise to (and seek forgiveness from) is yourself. Its hard. You WERE cruel. Past tense. And you will always know it. The best way to make it up to this person is to try to be a better person. To try to make a positive difference to other people's lives.

In the end its up to you to choose how to deal with this.

Anonymous said...

why apologising matters so much? I never get it. You can tell that a person is sorry when you see his eyes...Things dont come back. its too late for them. they remain in the past. they belong to the past. and the past never forgives anyone. so stop living in the past, stop apoligising especially when there is noone to appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

Oh God.

A friend of mine suffered from the memory of being 4 years old, winding up the family dog badly, and the dog running away, never to be seen again...

He was well into adulthood before anyone thought to tell him the dog was shot for worrying sheep.

You are right to imagine that Barry was in trouble anyway. I am not surprised you are haunted. But for you, Barry's death wasn't in vain... you learned compassion as a result. Give some to yourself.

Anonymous said...

barry was a fairy. nothing you said changed him. that was his garbage that led him in front of a train. learn from the experience: you felt it was wrong, so don't do it again... and if you do, you really need to check your motives for saying it.

Anonymous said...

I always try and follow one of my mums rules. If you can't say anything nice don't say anything at all. Who am I kidding? I fail miserably because I'm always talking and giving my opinion on things. It is rare you can accurately predict how people you don't know will react and an innocent comment could be misunderstood. Of course, your comment was quite clear. Is it out of character? I don't know. All of us have certain areas we feel strongly about. When we are younger we do many things we look back on with horror. I remember one girl I went out with..... but that is another story.

I alway work on the basis of we all make mistakes. We have all done things we have regreted later. Learn from them and move on, ensure that you don't do it again if it is something you regret. Guilt only tears you apart and does not reverse the damage.

I see from your post you are not going to do this again. You have learnt from the experience. Don't forget, put it in a regret memory space and move on. Remember it when you feel it is necessary but forgive yourself. It's done. You can't change it.

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the comments.
I think it's true that we discover the ability to wound long before we discover the true power of such ability and learn to use it responsibly.

I think most of you seem to be saying the same sorts of things, which are kind of what I think.

Shame you have to gain the experience of life and aren't born with it.

Anonymous said...

Man. Bless you. If I were there I would hold your hand and give you a hug not much else I could do .. really,not joking.

Anonymous said...

Whatever afterlife you happen to believe in, I personally dont believe that anyone can get there having never sinned...

Anonymous said...

What a disturbing story, CBI: thank you for sharing it - I truly don't know what to say except that I think forgiveness and our flawed nature are two sides of the same coin.

Anonymous said...

We're all flawed. You regret it; you know you did wrong. Learn from it.

Forgive yourself. Say sorry to God - if you believe - and accept that he forgives you. That is the hardest but you can't let this damage your life. One life has been lost; don't let yours be.

Anonymous said...

As I do like to play the devil's advocate and all these do gooders are assuming you feel far more guilty than you actually do ( I am suspecting you haven't thought about poor barry in many a year) I shall say just this- what a nasty little prick you were to say such a thing and at your age! Makes one wonder if Barry made you feel threatened about your own sexuality?
There, now that has probably done you more good that ALL the other comments.
But you don't seem to be much of a prick now. :) Still, doesn't help Barry.
P.S I am never letting you forget this. lol