This article originally appeared on Yahoo Parenting and was reprinted with permission
A man who was bullied in junior high received an unexpected apology – 20 years after the fact – when one of his tormentors recently reached out via Facebook to make amends.
ChadMichael Morrisette, a 34-year-old brand consultant and visual designer in West Hollywood, grew up in small-town Alaska. “The entire football team bullied me,” he tells Yahoo Parenting. “It wasn’t one guy, it was six or seven guys who would follow me in the hallways, harassing me, insulting me, threatening my life.”
Morrisette left home when he was 15, and says life got better quickly after that, and he hasn’t reflected much on his bullied childhood since. That is, not until May 5, when he woke up to a surprise message on Facebook.
The note was from Louie Amundson, whom Morrisette says he doesn’t specifically remember. “But that’s because there were so many bullies it was hard to name them all,” he says. Morrisette says it took a couple of days for him to process the true meaning of the message. “It unlocked something in me I didn’t realize I’d been holding onto. I cried a little bit. It was so moving.”
A few days later, Morrisette wrote back:
He heard back from Amundson immediately.
Amundson tells Yahoo Parenting he never expected anyone else to see his message to Morrisette, but felt it was his duty to apologize. “You can’t change your past, but you do still own it,” he says. “I can’t take back the names I called him, and the threats I made toward him, but I can apologize. It doesn’t excuse my behavior as a child in any way, but as an adult it’s the best I can do to try to make it up to him.
The apology was inspired by a conversation with his daughter, who is on student council, Amundson says. “They were working on a skit about bullying, so she was asking several different questions about why kids bully, what to do if you’re bullied — then she asked if I was ever bullied, and I said yes,” he says. “She then asked if I had ever bullied anyone else, and I had to think about it for a minute and that’s the first time I had thought about it in 20-plus years, so I answered honestly and said yes.”
Morrisette says he was especially touched that the apology was inspired by Amundson’s conversation with his daughter. “There was something magical happening between dad and daughter, that she brought the apology out,” he said. “And that he was honest with her that, yes, he bullied – good for him. I’m quite proud of him.”
Amundson says that receiving Morrisette’s forgiveness was quite emotional for him. “[I felt] humbled and ashamed and relieved all at once,” he says. “I owed him that apology, he did not owe me his forgiveness. The fact that he was able to forgive me showed that I may have been the bigger kid, but he is the bigger man. I really didn’t expect him to respond at all, and figured if he did it would be telling me where to stick the apology, kind of like ‘too little too late.’”
Morrisette says he hopes his exchange with his former tormentor will inspire both bullies and those who have been bullied. “For the ones that are bullied and are young, it does get better,” he says. “It’s hard to see that now. And it doesn’t get better in a year or two, necessarily, but 20 years later you’ll look back and realize, it is better.”
And for those who’ve been guilty of picking on others: “You can ask for forgiveness,” he says. “It takes courage to ask for forgiveness, and even if you don’t get it, the fact that you asked redeems you. I encourage more people to ask for forgiveness. Own up to what you did. A simple ‘I’m sorry’ can change everything.”
If nothing else, Morrisette says, remember one thing: “It’s never too late.”