Trigger Warning: This article mentions suicide.
*Featured image contains photo by Anna Shvets
High school can be a rough time for kids, with a capital R. The hallowed halls are a breeding ground for drama, self-loathing, broken hearts, and a burning desire to just fit in.
For Michael Stright, high school was a battlefield. A place where he endured relentless bullying at the hands of two of his fellow classmates. It got so bad, in fact, that he attempted suicide multiple times and eventually dropped out.
Years later, at the age of 42, he discovered one of his tormentors on Facebook and decided to confront his past. It didn’t go as he expected.
Facing the Ghost of His Past
In a recent TikTok video that has gone viral, Michael shares that in 2013 he found his childhood bully, Jeff, on Facebook through a mutual friend. Seeing his name “brought back a lot of bad memories” for Michael. He had two choices; he could continue to give Jeff power over his life or he could face his demon. He chose the latter.
In an incredible act of courage, Michael wrote Jeff a message. And Jeff? Well, he responded. And finally, after years and years of harboring trauma, Michael was able to find closure, peace, and healing for that inner child who suffered so much pain.
He shared screenshots of their conversation which have been viewed by over 2.9 million people in just a few days.
Michael did not tread lightly. He had a lot to say and he wasn’t about to sugarcoat any of it.
“Certain memories stay with you for life and the horrible memories of having you teasing me day after day. Did you know that I tried to commit suicide 3 times in school cause of the sh*t you and others put me through?”
Michael went on to explain that he wasn’t looking for pity. He just wanted the chance to finally move on.
A Bully Responds
To Michael’s surprise, the response he received was not defensive or dismissive. Instead, his former bully expressed deep remorse for the pain he had caused and thanked him for calling him out.
Despite not meaning to be malicious, Jeff acknowledged that his intentions back then didn’t matter — “because it hurt you and nobody deserves to feel like that.”
He even opened up to Michael about his own kids being bullied, wondering if it is “retribution” for the way he treated him. (After all, what goes around, comes around.) He went on to admit to contemplating suicide himself due to depression and anxiety.
“I am VERY happy that you did not commit suicide because of the actions of an insensitive classmate. I was an idiot and thought I was being “cool”…I was just an asshole, and I truly hope confronting me about this does make you feel better because you deserve that,” Jeff wrote.
He added, “I’ll never be able to apologize enough to undo the damage I did, but please know that I’ll be forever grateful for you having the courage to show me what I truly was … and I’m disgusted and ashamed of myself.”
Jeff’s emotional apology had a profound effect on Michael, bringing him to tears. But he wasn’t the only one crying…several thousands of commenters were crying right along with him.
Response to the TikTok Was Staggering
To say the video has resonated with a lot of people is an understatement. The number of people with similar experiences is heartbreaking. Commenter after commenter shared their own stories, many of them with a much darker ending.
“That feeling of being bullied relentlessly has never left me, I’m 42 now. I cannot or will never forgive them. They took my formative years away. 😔”
“I’m 43 and because of being bullied my brain will never let me believe that anyone really likes me, anyone my sister, fiance friends family it’s hard.”
“It sticks with you for life, changes who you are, stops you achieving things because of lack of confidence. It never leaves you. Some scars can’t heal.”
“My brother was horrifically bullied during his school years, affected his life and how he was as an adult. Sadly he took his own life at 27.”
The Power of Redemption and Forgiveness
Jeff passed away in 2017, four years after his text exchange with Michael. As for Michael? He’s glad he reached out when he did.
Not only did it take a lot of courage for Michael to confront his high school bully, but it took a lot of maturity, emotional integrity, and personal growth for Jeff to respond the way he did. He took ownership of his actions and did his best to make amends. And isn’t that what this life is all about? That we continuously evolve and grow so that we can become the best versions of ourselves?
Despite their past history of anguish and torment, the two men were able to come together in a beautiful display of the power of forgiveness and redemption. And while it may have been two decades in the making, it’s also proof that it’s never too late to make up for past mistakes.