Did you do anything wrong in your youth that you still regret?
Many years ago, someone close to us admitted that when she was younger, she stole. It wasn’t a one-time occurrence; she constantly stole money from her mother’s purse, stole things from stores, and had library books she never returned. She was now a young adult and wanted to make good, but what could she do? (Keep in mind, if you met her now, you would never imagine she could steal a penny in a million years.)
I asked a Rabbi, and he said she needed to make her full effort to admit her thievery and make restitution.
So, she began a journey that took a lot of effort and not a small amount of time. Her first stop was to tell her mother what she had done over the years, stealing money from her purse. Her mother forgave her and, although it was offered, would not take any money. This young woman decided to give what she approximated she stole to tzedakah (charity).
Most of the stores she stole from had changed hands over the years, so she had to research where the original owner was and track them down. She was able to find some of them, others she could not.
Then she gathered her stolen library books and went to return them. She told me that the librarians were shocked, accepted the books, and did not charge her because they were no longer on record.
Another woman I know, who is the nicest person you could ever meet, told me that when she was younger, she was a “mean girl.” She was one of the “cool girls” who socially tortured those who were not. Today she lives with guilt and shame. I encouraged her to reach out to those girls to apologize and make amends. More than likely, those girls are scarred from being emotionally bullied in their youth, and reaching out could perhaps be healing.
How many of us are carrying around stuff, rationalizing that we were young and foolish, writing it off as immaturity and youth? But if we look in the mirror and look ourselves in the eyes, we know that no matter the reason, what we did was just plain wrong.
It is not too late. While we are still alive and breathing, it is never too late.
Reach out and do it now. Clearing up our mistakes is called teshuva, which means “return.” You are returning to the good person you know you are, and clearing up mistakes is a big part of that.
And if you feel comfortable, please share with me what happened. I wish you courage and success.