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.
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.
Dear Harriette: My teenage daughter is going crazy with makeup these days. While we are at home, she is having too much fun. She is trying all kinds of styles, and in a way it’s fun, but since she has Zoom classes, her friends are seeing her — and she’s getting some blowback. When she shows her face all adorned in crazy makeup, kids make comments that are often negative. Teenagers can be mean, but also I don’t think she should go crazy with makeup when she’s going to class. I would rather she did that after class. When she’s talking to her friends on social media and looking nuts. that’s one thing. With the teacher, it is something totally different. How can I get the point across to her that I want her to express her creativity as she also remains appropriate for her school?
— Walking the Line
Dear Walking The Line: Talk to your daughter about timing. There is a time and a place for everything. When she is in class, it’s ideal for her to show up ready to do her work without presenting herself in such a way that will be distracting. Her job is to be an attentive and participatory student. Ask her what she thinks her responsibilities are to that end. Let her share her thoughts.
Point out that you think it’s fun for her to explore her creativity, but you recommend that she do so after school hours. In this way, she doesn’t become a source of discomfort for herself or her class.