I do not know anyone who has not been wronged by another person.
In fact, i don’t know anyone who would say they have been wronged only once. Many of us could recite a litany of slights, large and small.
If we are self-aware enough, we know that we wrong others as well, whether unintentionally or deliberately.
Integrity requires that we do what is reasonable and within our power to make things right. Deciding whether to re-approach someone we’ve hurt (or who has hurt us) usually isn’t easy, and depends on the magnitude of the offense, the closeness of the person and how long ago it took place.
It’s rather futile, though, to ‘require’ integrity of someone else. There may be compelling reasons to confront them anyway. And that’s what this essay is about.
Within the past few months, i found myself presented with two opportunities to address two unrelated past injustices toward me. (Both original situations were severe enough to solicit legal assistance.)
The first of those past events happened several years ago. The chance to go back to it sprang up unexpectedly after all that time — a window that opened suddenly and would close swiftly.
The other event happened only a year and a half ago, and deliberating over what, if anything, to do about it constituted a process of several months.
In either case, letting the past rest untouched was as rational an option as choosing to re-open the difficult drama. Leaving the past alone meant preserving whatever peace i’d managed to arrive at, whereas re-entering the fray would be aimed at reminding those responsible that what they did was wrong, even though they’d got away with it.
In both cases, i ultimately chose to confront the persons involved — one face to face, the other by way of a legal action.
Neither outcome was entirely satisfactory — but then, defining what to be satisfied by is part of the processing.
Here’s what i’ve concluded about the considerations involved and about whether it was worthwhile:
- Success or failure is not determined by whether you get the response you hope for. There is inherent rightness in acting against injustice.
- If the other person was callous or indifferent enough to have caused the harm in the first place, the likelihood may be low that they’ll see it any differently when you confront them later. And yet…
- If they are of the rare breed who are willing to consider your experience, you will have given them an opening for righting a wrong that they might welcome. And yet…
- If they remain closed to you — as was the case for me, especially in my face-to-face venture — there may be an internal effect that you won’t get to witness, depending on how they contemplate it afterward and how hardened they remain. And because you can’t know for sure…
- You have to think carefully about the risk of re-injury before you make such a move. It’s entirely appropriate to conclude you’re not up for that possibility. But if you are…
- Exercising the muscles required to stand up for oneself is affirming even though you cannot change the past. Therefore…
- Success resides in the coming to terms with what happened, and in having resolved for yourself the most fitting means for dealing with it.
Positive results beyond that are gravy.