I want to make it up to him... anonymously
September 29, 2017 4:41 PM   Subscribe

I'm complicit in a friend suffering significant pain and suffering. I want to (anonymously) make it up to him.

He's not a super close friend, but is someone I respect who I would never want to hurt in a million years. But it happened, and he knows I was part of it. There's no expectation of reconciliation or even apology. He wants nothing to do with me (and is totally justified in that stance). I'd do the same if things were reversed. But- I want to do SOMETHING for him. I'd like to know I did at least something positive, to make up for it. I want to try to alleviate, even a little, the overload of negativity I was part of inflicting on his life.

What I'm looking for here are suggestions for completely anonymous, untraceable acts of kindness that I could do for him. Even something fairly large-scale. But ideally, I'd like to do something that is not so anomalous to normal daily life that the average person would suspect that it had come from someone else, and just look on it as an awesome stroke of good fortune.

He's got 2 small children and a spouse who has some health issues. (I can't talk to her about it either.) It all has to be doable solely by me, and absolutely cannot be sussed out as "reparations" tied to the Incident.
posted by I_Love_Bananas to Human Relations (26 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You can't. He wants nothing to do with you. When someone wants nothing to do with you, that means any action you take is making the situation worse. His expressed wish is that you leave him alone. Maybe give to a related charity anonymously, but don't make any effort to tell him-- do it for yourself so you think you did something. Anything that happens with a hidden origin will come across as "crazy stalker."

Listen to what he is telling you by having nothing to do with you. The best action to take is to leave them alone. Make peace with that.
posted by blnkfrnk at 4:54 PM on September 29, 2017 [54 favorites]

The way to make it up to him is by respecting the fact that he doesn’t want anything to do with you anymore or hear from you ever again. You wanting to do something for him is an action designed to assuage your guilt about this situation. You’re making this about you.
posted by Hermione Granger at 5:04 PM on September 29, 2017 [49 favorites]

When you find you are the villain in someone else's story, the best thing to do is simply end that story. You can be the hero in a different story.
posted by ferdydurke at 5:34 PM on September 29, 2017 [46 favorites]

Best answer: I agree with the above answers. This is the kind of thing that is an understandable impulse and which would be a great idea in, say, a romantic comedy, but which in real life would be self-serving and a bit creepy to actually do. Sometimes we hurt people. Sometimes—hopefully rarely—we hurt people in ways that can't be made better. This appears to be one of those times in your life. The best thing you can do is learn a lesson from it and try to avoid doing similar things in the future so that you don't end up hurting someone and feeling like a heel. And, as others have said, respect this person's desire not to have you in his life anymore by staying out of his life, anonymously or not.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:37 PM on September 29, 2017 [26 favorites]

No, please leave this person alone.

You can make a financial donation to a cause you know matters to him, but don't attach his name to it in any way. But in your mind that might be a good way to make amends, for your own heart and peace.
posted by sockermom at 5:37 PM on September 29, 2017 [15 favorites]

Donate to charity, go volunteer, etc. Forgive yourself. Learn from your mistakes. Do better next time. Respect people, including what they tell you they want.
posted by Alterscape at 5:41 PM on September 29, 2017 [14 favorites]

I think the way you anonymously make reparations is by doing the hard work to ensure you become a person who would never do something like that again.
posted by corb at 5:54 PM on September 29, 2017 [52 favorites]

I would get the howling 'tods if somebody who screwed me over so badly that I never wanted to speak to them again tried to anonymous benefactor me. Everybody in this thread is right.
posted by prize bull octorok at 5:57 PM on September 29, 2017 [3 favorites]

Sounds to me like this is more about making yourself feel better than making him feel better. Let's say you send him an envelope with cash -- that'd probably just freak him out or he'd figure out where it came from. There's no way you can help him anonymously. You should probably just leave him alone and try to be a better person.
posted by AppleTurnover at 6:06 PM on September 29, 2017

No. Leave him alone.

It seems like you want to do this because you feel guilty and want to make yourself feel better. But you are the the wronged party here - it's not about you. He's made his feelings clear - he wants nothing to do with you. The best thing you can do for him is respect that.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:17 PM on September 29, 2017

Chiming in to say please respect your friend's wishes and leave him alone. If it helps you to make peace with it, space to heal is the best reparation you can make.

I had some close friends who betrayed me deeply once. The reason it happened was because they seemed to think they knew better than me what I needed. I felt insulted by all of their attempts to make it up to me because I needed space. Every attempt (and some random anonymous things that I suspected they were behind) felt only like salt on an open wound. They were using me to feel absolved, and it hurt.

Give the healing gift of respect.
posted by pazazygeek at 6:58 PM on September 29, 2017 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Oh, wow. So I disagree with every single person who's answered this question thus far. Lovely.

Soooo... poster, I see that you are already aware that your act of kindness can't be traced back to you, and that you've already thought of the idea of doing something that could just have "happened" and not been caused by anyone. Just a stroke of good luck.

I think that would be fine and dandy, if you can engineer such a thing. I don't even really think it matters what your motivation is--if it's helpful to him, and he really doesn't even suspect it was caused by you, then he's still the better for it, whether you're doing it out of love or merely to assuage guilt.

That said, from what little you've written about his situation, it's hard to tell what you could do. Whatever you do, you should probably wait a goodly length of time first, so you or the other wrongdoers aren't still so much on his mind and he isn't likely to suspect you.

You mentioned his wife has some health problems. Depending on what those are, you might be able to do research and find or pay for top of the line medical treatment.

One of the best things I've ever had done for me was when a friend helped me find a job. I don't know for sure, but I suspect I wouldn't have gotten an interview without his good word. So, if anyone in your friend's family has less than ideal employment and you can in any way help them professionally without it getting back to you, that would be a good act.
posted by nirblegee at 7:07 PM on September 29, 2017 [9 favorites]

Best answer: I think your goal is to make amends, and I think it's a good goal. Think of the monetary value of the reparation, it will be arbitrary but you have to start somewhere. What is a charity that he would appreciate? If you can't think of one, There are a number of organizations helping Puerto Rico recover from Hurricane Maria. Give the money. Pick a date that represents the date you want to commemorate. Every year, donate some money. Pay it forward. If there's a way to help some other person, help them. The only point of guilt is to learn from it.
posted by theora55 at 7:30 PM on September 29, 2017 [9 favorites]

Are you sure? I can think of dozens of examples in which I'd never want anything to do with someone ever again, and might never be able to forgive them, but very few in which if you sent me a bunch of money, I wouldn't spend it. If someone sent me a note saying "this in no way makes up for what happened, but it was the only thing I could think to do," I might not cash their personal check, but if it were a cashier's check or cash? Yes. Depending on what happened, you might include something like "the event will continue to haunt me" to indicate that sending this money will not leave you feeling relieved or at peace about the situation.

Still no? Then consider sending cash to people who are victims of the same event.

And then undertake a lot of soul-searching on how you let this happen and how to never let it happen again. But then forgive yourself. The world isn't made better by people crippling themselves with guilt. I think it's great that you're trying to replace guilt with self reflection and positive action.
posted by salvia at 10:35 PM on September 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

Great quote, salvia: "The world isn't made better by crippling themselves with guilt." I agree that you need to move on and let go of this guilt. Do not interfere with this person's life.

That said, Anonymous acts of kindness:
1) pay for the kid's tuition at private school, if relevant, or sponsor their classroom if at a public school. Call the school to get information.
2) donate to a charity in their name.
3) literally just send them via USPS an anonymous envelope with contents that might help them - gift cards, money, whatever else.
4) this sounds dumb coming from someone who is not religious, but: say a prayer for them, every night for a month. Consciously decide that you wish them health and wellness, and then actually take a moment to wish that for them.
posted by samthemander at 10:42 PM on September 29, 2017 [4 favorites]

Oh, I came up with an example in which you couldn't just send them money. In that case, maybe donate to ... sheesh, this is tough. Like if it were me, you could donate to my neighborhood library because it'd make my life better, but it's such a civic thing that I wouldn't feel creeped out. (Just don't show up on the donor list.) You could anonymously pay some laborers to do litter clean-up or street beautification in my area. You could also donate to my community food bank or to boost services for low income families at my neighborhood Y -- things that "raised the tide" in my community but already felt fairly public and non-intimate.

There are also ways to make anonymous donations. You could donate to his children's school that way. Whether something like that is an option depends on why he can't know and what feels right to you. I think there's a chance that some options would cause your subconscious to feel bad about violating his privacy / space.
posted by salvia at 10:52 PM on September 29, 2017 [4 favorites]

You can't do anything anoymously. That's creepy and invasive and designed to make yourself feel better.

The only thing you can do has to be related to whatever the bad thing was you did to him. You can offer a sincere apology or acknowlegement of his injury. If it had to do with him getting fired, you can offer to help him find a new job or work on whatever problem got him fired. If he needs money because he got fired you can give him cashed. If he was pushed out of some kind of volunteer organization you can help him find another spot.

If you can't make amends that way, forget it.
posted by yarly at 6:35 AM on September 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

It's disturbing that the only answers you've marked as "best" are the ones who are behind you taking action (which you want to do), and completely ignore the fact that this person WANTS NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU EVER AGAIN. If you do something nice "for" him, it's really about making yourself feel better, and you will be violating his express request that you DON'T EVER HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH HIM EVER AGAIN.

Jesus, that message could not be more plain.
posted by tzikeh at 10:40 AM on September 30, 2017 [11 favorites]

Response by poster: you will be violating his express request that you DON'T EVER HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH HIM EVER AGAIN

To clarify, he never said anything to me. We have not spoken about it. When I said "He wants nothing to do with me," I was making an assumption based on what I would have thought, if things were reversed. He's blocked me on Facebook, so that's part of my presumption.

I'm sorry if that was misleading.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 11:04 AM on September 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

Gently, while this sounds like a generous impulse, I think you may still be in an acute phase after this tragedy and would benefit from patience. The anxious, hurried feeling you might have is from the fact you did something you don't feel proud of; and sitting with that, letting it wholly through your body and soul, is going to likely be the best thing to both get you past it, and help you integrate it in a truly useful way so you can learn and avoid getting into a similar place in the future. Whether you do something externally, big or small, it doesn't have to happen now.

Your headline is "I want to make it up to him" and that says more about your mindset than anything else. The truth may be that you *can't* make it up to him. There *may not* be a big enough gesture, and this pursuit of just-the-right-thing may be your mind distracting you from your real internal work. It's nice of your mind to do that, but I'd gently guide it back. I would recommend writing another question: "How do I cope with overwhelming guilt?"

The fact you want to do it anonymously might be your subconscious way of recognizing this act on your part wouldn't be welcome by the other person. You know it's not on the level. That's why people say this is more about you.

Given that, doing "something positive" might mean something generally positive for society or, agreeing with other commenters, focusing on your own growth so that you don't do this ever again and/or you make it less likely others will do this kind of thing again. So, if you lost him his job because of workplace gossip, learn to become a person who broadcasts positivity and welcome so clearly that any workplace you walk into will within a month be gossip-free; or lead a program to prevent workplace harassment. If you did something while drinking irresponsibly, commit to healthy drinking and/or volunteer for a related advocacy organization. Fix yourself *and* make the world, more broadly, the kind of place where whatever thing you did will be less likely to happen. This is harder work in the long run. So it's also a good litmus test for your sincerity.

Based on your update, I think you could also send one message where you express that you'd like to do something, recognizing you can never make this up to him. And offer some options, like (a) I will send you $500, (b) I will donate $500 to the organization of your choice. Proactively say you will also do your self-work and not initiate contact again. It is disrespectful of the boundary he put with the Facebook block, but you say he didn't actually ask you not to contact him, so if that's the case you might not be 100% off-base to send this message. I don't think it's the best or most honoring choice, but if it gets you to leave him alone and feel you've scratched this itch then it might be worthwhile.

And I would try not to make so many assumptions.
posted by ramenopres at 1:22 PM on September 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

He's blocked me on Facebook, so that's part of my presumption.

I don’t understand how you can’t see that this is like hanging out a sign that says “don’t contact me, because I don’t want to hear from you.”

I urge you to re-read all of the answers that didn’t give you the answer you came here to get, and do some soul searching.
posted by tzikeh at 3:13 PM on September 30, 2017 [4 favorites]

The anonymous secret stuff is creepy and invasive

Any direct overtures are just further entanglements that seem to be clearly and emphatically unwanted

Just leave the guy be. Just let it go. Doing nothing is sometimes the hardest but kindest thing to do in a fucked up situation.
posted by prize bull octorok at 4:11 PM on September 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

I strongly believe people are morally obligated to make reparations where possible, regardless of motivation. However, I have to agree with others here that respecting his boundaries (which are pretty clear, given the blocking), is the first and best thing you can do, in addition to doing better in the future. Paying forward isn't reparation, but I think it's the next best thing you can do, especially if it's in some way related.
posted by moira at 6:18 PM on September 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

> You mentioned his wife has some health problems. Depending on what those are, you might be able to do research

No, that's creepy and something Batman would do.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:12 AM on October 1, 2017 [6 favorites]

We have not spoken about it. When I said "He wants nothing to do with me," I was making an assumption based on what I would have thought, if things were reversed. He's blocked me on Facebook, so that's part of my presumption.

in that case, I don't understand why apologies are ruled completely out of the question. of course they might be unwelcome! and I have no idea what you did or if he thinks it was deliberate or if he's correct about that.

but when I think of grudges I've held for years because of awful things people did, all the stories end the same way, with "...and they never even apologized." or gave me a chance to throw their apology gesture back in their face, which is intensely gratifying in some circumstances and he might find it highly cathartic, depending on what happened.

I assumed he'd said "never speak to me again" or conveyed that message to you through a third party. but if he didn't --? obviously you don't go knock on his door or try to sneak up on him in person but if you have an avenue through which you can send a very short, very sincere written apology, I am confused about why that isn't an option. or an obligation, before anything else can be considered. having someone betray you is one thing. having them betray you and not even be sorry or think twice about it, as far as you know, is worse.
posted by queenofbithynia at 4:50 PM on October 1, 2017 [4 favorites]

There are people that I want "nothing to do with" but I wouldn't hate a year's worth of free coffee, a target gift card, stuff off of my amazon wish list. I might question it but I wouldn't be creeped out by it.
posted by PeaPod at 12:55 PM on October 3, 2017

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