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Stories of people 'cleaning their slate'

Personal stories submitted during the Clean Slate Campaign in the UK in 1999

The Clean Slate Campaign received a number of stories from people who had taken practical action. Many of those who wrote wished to remain anonymous. The stories fall into four broad categories:

  1. Personal relationships
  2. Honesty & integrity
  3. Personal issues
  4. Practical action


1. Personal relationships

I'm writing to a friend about my "put down" of him years ago. The thought of it occupies too much RAM. (Bill Butler, USA)

This weekend I have cleared my outstanding pile of requests for donations from charities which have accumulated over many months. There is someone I would like to apologise to, towards whom I was too harsh over a decade ago, but I do not yet know how to break the ice. I wish I could. (Anon)

I have felt divided from a friend in another continent for over 20 years. I decided to pray for them daily, and I have already been given a new love in my heart for them. The cloud is being lifted without anything being said, and we are starting to work together positively. (Anon, N Wales)

Every time I thought about the Clean Slate Campaign, one lady's name came to mind. During a discussion I had spoken to her harshly and hurt her. I knew that I owed her an apology, but every time I approcahed her to say I was sorry, something or someone intervened. When this had happened several times, I thought again about the incident. I realised that I had not been a little unkind, I had bullied her. I saw too that, given power, I had often been a bully - not a pleasant picture of my character, but a true one. I needed to repent and change. A few days later I found myself alone with this lady and I asked her to forgive my bullying. Had my earlier attempts to speak to her been successful, I would have apologised on a superficial level, and would have failed to see my true character. (Anon, Scotland)

I have been cleaning my slate. I wrote my brother-in-law to apologise for interfering in the drafting of my father-in-law's will, which then had to be unscrambled. I have not heard anything from him yet..... (Anon, USA)

I have today written a long overdue letter of reconciliation, bridging a gap of several years, by asking forgiveness for my lack of care and lack of attempt to heal the breach between me and two of my friends. (Stella Weaver, Croydon)

I shared with our Bible Study group and - Praise the Lord! - as a result there has been a healing and reconciliation of a breakdown in relationships between two church families. (Anon, Newcastle)

Years ago we were involved with a local children's home, and kept in contact with several who had grown up there. Recently two of them kept coming into my mind. Both had made it clear that they didn't want contact, one had been in prison and another had abandoned her children and had opted out. But these broken relationships were nagging at us, so we made two phone calls. When we phoned the young woman she was very low and uncertain for the future - and was so pleased to hear us, as she had not felt able to make the first move. We are now in contact again. When we phoned the young man, he knew exactly who was calling. Our number was keyed into his mobile phone, even though we had not spoken for over six years. The barriers between us were broken, the slate wiped clean, a new beginning. (Anon, Hertfordshire)

As news of Australia's National Sorry Day [over treatement of Aborigines] sunk in, I thought about our native people in Canada. I wrote to a few whom I know to apologise for the hurt that had been done to their people when the children were forced into residential schools and made to speak English. I enclosed copies of the CS Guide to explain what had prompted my letter. (A Canadian)

Recently I lost my temper with a woman in a council department. The next day I took a box of chocolates to her office! (Anon, Merseyside)

I had argued many times with a certain girl who I didn't like very much, but I wanted to be friends with her - or at least on speaking terms. So one day after school I told her how I felt, and explained that I was sorry for what I had done and said to her. She apologised to me too, and now every time I see her, instead of glaring at her we smile at each other. It feels SO much better now! (Teenager, Oxfordshire)

Recently my eldest brother died suddenly. For years there have been family misunderstandings, largely I think due to mistakes made by my husband and me. Through your campaign I found myself longing to clear up these misunderstandings but wondering how I could do this. Then in a marvellous way, my brother's wife brought up these divisions, that she felt so sorry about. It was an emotional time for both of us but enabled my husband and me to go to the funeral and be a real part of the family. They were all so outgoing, and I can hardly believe that it has happened like this. (Anon, Oxfordshire)

I find I am constantly having to wipe my personal slate clean with my wife. The other weekend, I got so angry, over what I thought at the time was unduly sharp criticism from her over an incident with one of our children, that I took myself off to the cinema by myself! It was pride on my part, for which I had to apologise to her later, for abandoning her to the two children, when one of them needed support with homework. (Anon, London)

When I read the Clean Slate Guide and considered where I needed to clean my slate, I realised that I had closed my heart to Germany. I did not want to go there again. I find it difficult not knowing the language. I had seen TV programmes that made me scared of Germany. I realised that it hinged around a German colleague who I found difficult. I have decided to make my colleague a real friend and open my heart to Germany. (Anon, Merseyside)

An old friend had made a very hurtful remark in her letter. I wrote back sharing my hurt with her. She wrote a wonderful letter apologising for her insensitivity. Now we are both free of any hard feelings. (Anon, Hampshire)

I had harboured a hurt for years against one old friend. I wrote a letter of apology. She phoned and asked me to forgive her. We talked for ages. The friendship that was dead came alive. (Anon, Edinburgh)

There are many things I should not do, such as being critical of other people. However, the practical one item I can do is to behave better towards my brother, who has difficulty with his legs and way of walking, and with other things about his body. I must keep the Promise in my mind. (Anon, London)

A friend introduced me to the Clean Slate Campaign when we were discussing giving something up for Lent. I thought about it and decided that my 'clean slate' would be to try to do in a day all that I planned to do. One evening I was thinking over whether I had carried this out and I remembered I had planned to ring my sister who broke her pelvis some time ago and still has great pain in her legs. I looked at the clock - 8.30 pm - 'oh no, I'll leave it until the morning,' I thought....and then....'what about my clean slate?' So I rang. It took a long time before she answered, and her voice sounded strange. 'Sorry, darling,' I said, 'did I wake you up?' There was a long pause and she said, 'No, you didn't wake me up, you stopped me taking an overdose.' (Anon, Kent)

Although deeply involved in the Ministry of Reconciliation, I still have two people in my life to whom I am not reconciled. This is not for want of trying but in both instances the persons concerned have rebuffed my attempts at explaining and apologising. I promise to continue my efforts at reconciliation, and hope to wipe my slate clean during 1999. (Nia Rhosier, N Wales)


A casual worker had been underpaid for a job and I apologised and paid him for the job and our relationship was restored. It's one small step but there's still a few weeks before the 2000th anniversary of Christ's birth begins. (Edward, South Africa)

It started when I was a student. I was low on money, but everything was available in the shops, so I started stealing. The culture around me was all about buying. I also found defying the authorities exciting. It continued even when I was no longer a student. I think it was a bit like taking drugs: it didn't feel right, but once you're into it, it didn't feel right to stop either. Then I was caught. My name was given to the police. I was banned from one store for two years. I was told that if I was caught again, my name would go down on the records. Shop-lifting no longer seemed worth the risk. In a way being caught was a relief. I had to stop. Some time later I told a friend about this and he said I should pay back the shops for the goods I'd stolen. I found this embarrassing. In spite of the fact that my financial situation had improved, I said I couldn't afford it. But slowly I did begin paying them back. I'd give cash to a friend - on two occasions it was £200 - and he'd take it to a shop and say, 'This money is repayment for stolen goods. It's from someone who wishes to remain anonymous'. Some shops wouldn't take it; others did. All the shop managers said it was 'very unusual'. One shop assistant said, 'This restores your faith in human nature'. I felt liberated. When my friend showed me a leaflet from the 'Clean Slate Campaign', I thought it was great. I found it encouraging. There is still more on my slate to clean. I am giving my personal story anonymously to the 'Clean Slate Campaign' in case it might be helpful to others. One can turn a new page, and be completely renewed. And that is fantastic. (Anon)

Today I finally returned an overdue book to a library, having meant to do so for a long time. (David Down, Newcastle)

A shop assistant undercharged me several times. When I became aware of this, rather than rectifying the situation I continued to take advantage of it. On reading about the Clean Slate Campaign I decided to pay back the difference, as I had to admit that I would certainly have complained if I had been overcharged. (Anon, Merseyside)

As the oldest of three young brothers, I got the largest allowance. It must have made me an economic imperialist. One day I flaunted my wealth by offering brothers aged 3 and 5 the sum of $1 each if they would eat dirt. To my extreme shock, they each did so. I added shame to shock by reneging on my deal. Yesterday I read about a Millennium Clean Slate Campaign. I decided to start with my earliest crimes and am sending each brother a cheque for $20, the present value of $1 in 1930. Also enclosed is $20 for the Clean Slate Campaign! (Anon, USA)

Personal issues

I have decided that I am not going to feel guilty any more about my actions and behaviour from the ages of 19 to 27. These years included my college years when I behaved promiscuously and hurt my friends very badly. I thought only about myself and lost contact with God. I am putting the guilt of those youthful years behind me in the knowledge that if God can forgive all I've done then I can wipe my slate clean. (Anon, Oxfordshire)

When I read about the Clean Slate Campaign I immediately thought of a painful time I had lived through 30 years ago and of how fearful I had been of certain people since then, fearing rejection, criticism and more pain. As the weeks went by, it was as if God was fitting together pieces of a broken jigsaw puzzle in my life. He gave me practical steps to take: attend a service in the church where I had had a very real experience of Jesus 23 years ago; write a letter apologising for resentment held; talk to someone I feared rebuff from. Piece by piece I feel God freeing me from the controlling grip of fear. (Meryl Horn, S Africa)

I have signed the promise and my practical step is giving up smoking. After several attempts in the past and after more than 25 years of smoking, I have stopped. I am just completing my twelfth day… All I can say to those who have tried quitting and not succeeded is "Don't stop giving up. You have only failed when you stop trying." (Albert Burton, Sheffield)

In addition to my original pledge, I have recently made two more - one is to forgive my stepson, who is a heroin addict, for the pain and distress he has caused his mother and I over the years. He is currently serving his third prison sentence (for theft). The other is a very personal one. I have, over a number of years, become addicted to telephone chat lines. On the Tuesday before the New Year, I cleaned my slate with my wife, who knew I had a problem, but this was the first time I had accepted that it was an addiction. I am awaiting an appointment with a Christian counselling organisation. All of these things have enabled me to start afresh in the New Millennium. I am confident that with God's guidance and help, I will be able to face the future with a brand new clean slate. (Albert Burton, Sheffield)

I have been hurt by the gender discrimination I often experience within my own Asian community. I have decided to clean my slate of this hurt, and not allow it to make me angry or have a negative effect on the way I treat others. (Baroness Flather, Maidenhead)

I bought a piece of jewelry from a charity stall. It was in an unpretentious plastic box and did not cost very much. When I returned home and looked at it again I saw that it had a continental gold stamp on the back. I put it aside, thinking to have it valued. When I saw it, I thought 'I must do something about that', but I did nothing. Then I came across a remark in a book I was reading which focused my mind. It said simply, 'Never take advantage of another.' I thought about that piece of jewelry. Wasn't I taking advantage of the person who had sold this to me not knowing its true value? Also, as the object of the sale was to obtain funds for a charity, I was depriving the charity. I have now returned the piece of jewelry and suggested that it be valued. Upon my clean slate I have decided to write: 'I will never take advantage of another.' (Lorraine Khan, Cardiff)

I believe that the record on my slate has been wiped clean, and I am in the state of having been forgiven. However, I am very vulnerable. My pride would get the better of me if I thought that I was becoming perfect in any way! A recurrent record on my slate is entered when I break the ninth commandment of God: 'You shall not bear false witness.' Gossip, writing people off, being critical of others behind their backs and scoring points off others. Recently I have had to apologise to a colleague for character assassination. (Anon, East Anglia)

I can make myself miserable by being envious of those who, unlike myself, have grown up in a happy family. A mood can attack me and put me out of action for hours. After this happened recently I decided to do something about it - someone once told me power comes with a decision - so I wiped the hateful word 'Envy' off my slate and in its place I put 'Contentment'. That's what I'm aiming for now. (Betty Richmond, Edinburgh)

My promise is two fold: (1) not to look back at the past, which has been awful for me over the last five years due to illness; but rather now to look to Jesus and a happy future. Hopefully I am now permanently healed in many ways thanks to church friends; (2) to forgive my friends, and especially my mother, their failings. I can be very intolerant and hold resentment. This will be hard. (Anon, Newcastle)

One particular corner of my slate consists of the 'Resentment Chart'. So easily it has been second nature to chalk up the resentment score on my slate, and as time went by I was even unaware of how messy the slate looked. A while ago I had a phone call with a friend. As I hung up I had a feeling that there had been dismissal of 'my good ideas'. And here was the decision: was I going to chalk up yet one more thing to be resentful about? Quite clearly it came to me to cease messing up my slate in this way - a liberating experience. Ten days later I got another chance to practise the same: not even to reach for the chalk for 'another one' on the resentment score. Liberation again - and gratitude! (Anon)

There are elements in our character that are ingrained in us. I thought of my reaction to criticism. I often react strongly when my wife criticises me or disagrees with what I say. This is something that I can start facing up to and by the millennium really see the beginning of a clean slate. (Anon, Edinburgh)

A 90-year-old grandmother gave the 'Clean Slate Guide' to her home carer from the local Social Services. This woman put the Clean Slate Promise on her pin board at home, with the words she had written on it: "Must be punctual!" She also gave the Guide to her 13-year-old daughter. They had a frank talk and the daughter wrote out her own secret promise - still unknown to her Mum. (Anon, Sussex)

I have had a very cool attitude towards a young niece (unmarried) who has had a baby and is consequently living on Social Security in a nice SS-provided flat - all paid for of course by taxpayers! I have enough sins of my own in past years to be aware of without such criticism of my niece. I have yet to see her to arrange a meeting and correct my hypocritical attitude - and wipe my slate clean. (Anon, Hertfordshire)

Are you a terrible person? I am! Terrible at everything to do with being the person one knows one should be. Until a good friend sent me the Clean Slate Guide. 'Aha!' I thought. Hope! One step, Just one practical step. What shall I do? I know! I'll make a promise to be nicer to myself in 1999, and then in 2000 be able to be kinder to others because I've stopped hating myself. There's the promise. Now to work. But having made the promise a lot of ideas are unlocked. Less of the booze, less of the cakes, more of the exercise, more of prayer and meditation, more time for the God I say I believe in. Oh, a long way to go! But keep tuned in. Now-not-so-terrible will keep you informed of her progress. (Anon, Bristol)

I want to report that I have signed the promise and taken one step - to apologise for a jealousy. (Lorna Laird, East Lothian)

I will now count to ten every time I am feeling like a confrontation with anyone. (Anon, Sheffield)

My decision is to be totally true to my age, experience and background. To be totally open to new ideas without trying to appear 'with it', wiser or younger than I am. (Anon, West Midlands)

I have just experienced a 'change of heart' in which the words from the Lords Prayer 'forgive our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us' had become a reality. (Anon)

In an evening of profound frustration and feeling my total inability to deal with my problems, I found myself asking God for forgiveness and help. These words, so unusual for me that I so very rarely ask for help - any help - addressed to 'someone, something out there', surprised me, but at the same time the thought occurred to me 'how can you ask for forgiveness when you are not able to give it?' In that moment I forgave a friend whom I had been unable to forgive till then. I called her immediately and just told her the news I felt the joy of freely sharing what I had freely received. (Rosa Bellino, London)


Cleaning my slate has meant clearing my room! My very small bedroom is also my office. It has been swamped with piles of papers which get moved from desk to bed and back again daily. Having filled four black refuse bags, renewed my filing system, written over twenty letters and returned "borrowed" items to their rightful owners I feel a sense of clarity beginning to emerge from the fog. I can actually find things when I need them. (Joy Weeks, Winchester)

The state of my home was almost reaching the 'point of no return'. As a result of having been so busy, unlooked-at papers, unanswered correspondence, etc, were accumulating at an alarming rate The decision to get on with wiping the slate clean had a radical effect! But it's not just a question of wiping it. It's a matter of keeping it wiped - and this is going to take a daily and weekly discipline. (Anon, Yorkshire)

I promise not to undergo a personality change when I get behind the wheel of my car. I shall attempt to avoid hiding behind the anonymity of my vehicle and being impatient and intolerant of other road users. I have been conscious that I have been intolerant of the elderly, of slow vehicles and horse riders, of road works and unexpected delays. I shall try not to subscribe to the time pressured bully culture of the road. This should also have the advantage of making me a safer driver. This is a promise which I can execute on a daily basis and which will be an ongoing challenge well into the next millennium. (Anon, Oxfordshire)

We have spent the last six weeks cleaning our slate, in that we have tackled all the old letters, articles, cuttings, Christmas cards, etc, that have cluttered up drawers, boxes, etc - in fact cleaning up the mess before we pass on to the next world! Haven't quite finished because it throws up so much practical, emotional and spiritual trauma!! (Jo Purvis, Fordingbridge)

Last year I sent for two books and a magazine from a publishing house. However, this order was followed by a flood of promotional material through my letter box, not just from the original firm, all containing tempting blandishments, e.g. tropical holidays, money prizes, 'free' gifts etc. My slate will continue to be cleaned as I am returning, unopened, all correspondence of the above nature to the sender, or consigning it to the rubbish bin. (Anon, Scotland)

I have signed the promise; I've got to honour it. Maybe instead of thinking why aren't THEY doing something about that tatty phone box or grotty piece of land by the corner, I could tackle it. Maybe I could burn those few letters written to me in anger years ago and filed away just in case they are needed. Maybe I could commit to getting to know my neighbours better and enter the new millennium feeling more part of my immediate community. Each of these is a real possibility and now I am compelled to do something. (Anon, Hertfordshire)

I wandered into the pornographic area of the Internet. Afterwards I was surprised how it took over my spirit. It held me in a vice for several months because it was a vice. I was fortunate to know that release could come from prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit. I am most grateful for being released and rescued in this way. (Anon)

My contribution to the Campaign is to "do it now" rather than constantly to say as hitherto, "I'll do that in a moment", for the trouble is in a moment never comes! (Anon, Sussex)

I think the challenge of the Clean Slate Campaign is beneficial for all of us and enables even the busiest of us to take a fresh look at how we plan our days. For those of us who live alone, and can so easily say "Yes" to other people's initiatives and demands - it is even more of a challenge. (Anon)

In my professional life, I have always had secretaries who patiently coped with my dictation and unbusinesslike office work. Now retired, I am Organiser of a Children's charity. Recently I realised I must go through dozens of letters we received in preparation for the AGM, somehow I imagined someone else would do it!! Painstakingly, I spent many hours going through and filing (somewhat inadequately) years of records. ....I had the inner satisfaction of a Clean Slate. Not only that, but valuable bits of information were discovered, previously overlooked with the pressure of past work. (Anon, Kent)

After many years of full-time Christian work, I have a mass of papers and books, some of them inherited. My instinct is to hold on to them till the time I can enjoy the leisure to go through them and extract important things to illustrate and justify my life work. My decision is to go through them all ruthlessly and keep only those items which will help the faith of the next generation. I have been delaying signing the CS promise until this process was further advanced, but in fact I have made a drastic start which has astonished my family! (Anon, London)

When I read the Clean Slate Guide, I immediately thought of a huge walk-in cupboard. The sorting out of that cupboard presented me with something I just tried to forget. Over the following weeks, I tackled it - sorting, discarding, selling and sending to the jumble. Just as I was finishing, I heard of someone who wanted lodging for a week and it was just ready in time for her to have the room. And what a relief. Now I am free for more slate cleaning. (Mary Mann, London)

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Article type
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Publishing permission refers to the rights of FANW to publish the full text of this article on this website.