Yesterday in my post “Words I Need To Say” (, I reflected on some important and helpful statements Kate Leth believes men need to practice saying.

I received the following two important and penetrating comments in response to my statement that, in addition to Leth’s suggestions, men also need to learn to say,

Please forgive me.

Jaqueline’s comments in response to that statement are words I need to hear:

November 18, 2017 at 8:34 am jaqueline

 “Please forgive me – I know I have absolutely no right to make any demands of you in this matter….”

That’s right, you don’t… then why do you go on to give every reason why you are making that demand?

No one has the right to ask for forgiveness. It is the right of the offended to offer it.

We think we are allowed to ask for forgiveness because we see it as an act of contrition and a request for mercy. That is what the apology is. If we ask for forgiveness we are demanding of the person we hurt something they may not be not ready to give.

Forgiveness is NOT a means to “seek to give you back the power.” as if you are the one who has that person’s power. Nor should it ever be an add on to an apology. Not only does it weaken the apology, it makes out that you have a right to ask something off the person whose trust you have broken.

If the relationship is irreparably broken, there is no point to put the one you have hurt in the awkward position of having to forgive you. All you will be doing is forcing them to either say yes when they are not ready or say no, and then make them to feel like they are merciless or callous or rejecting of forgiveness itself, and leaving them feeling like a “bad person.”

If the relationship is not irreparably broken, forgiveness will be evidenced by the continuation of the relationship.

So what should we expect as one who has offended and hurt and are giving an apology? Nothing.

November 18, 2017 at 8:36 am



I teach children principles of reconciliation and empathy and within the context of our little community I teach them this: when they have received an apology, from someone who has hurt them, I teach them to say “thank you for your apology.” That’s it.

I teach the kids that when they have been hurt, they might still be angry, they might still be sad, they might still need to understand, they might still need help from someone, they might not want to play with the kid who hurt them.

Yet I teach the kids who are receiving the apology that the person who hurt them is making themselves soft and able to be hurt in return and so it is good for us to let them know we acknowledge the step they have taken by saying “thank you for the apology.”

Sometimes I hear the kids say ” I don’t think they meant it” and then I teach them we will know it was genuine by the way they have changed their actions toward us.

But that is in the context of childhood in a group that needs to function together and is full of little ones who love each other. It is a good principle to practice in families and in community groups.

But as adults we should be mature enough to not even expect a “thank you for your apology” We should be mature enough to take the scary step of saying sorry without expecting anything in return.

I think when I added the statement “Please forgive me” to Leth’s wise words, it felt like I was simply offering another way of saying, “I’m sorry,” a further acknowledgement that I am the guilty party and therefore the one who needs forgiveness.

Perhaps I was also hoping to find a way forward through the impasse that male/female relationships seem to have come to in our culture these days. We seem so stuck.

I am not sure I am hearing a lot of voices suggesting helpful ways men can participate in moving gender relations forward. I suppose this may in part be because we men are responsible to discover for ourselves what contribution we can make to help ease the logjam of gender relations that we have created. But, as is clearly evident from the wise and helpful words above, we men need help. It is going to require some kind of cooperation to move us together in a more honest and sensitive direction.

Perhaps it might have worked better if I had said, until forgiveness happens it will be hard for us to find a way forward to a more healthy place in our relations. But, even this could be heard as a demand. And it is true, the one who has given offense has no right to make any demand of the one is justly offended.

A true apology carries no additions, no codicils, no qualifying clauses; it needs to stop simply with the awkward silence that follows, “I’m sorry….” There is no room at the end of  “I’m sorry” for even the hint of any demand, requirement, or expectation on the part of the one who was in the wrong. The only legitimate next step for the person who has apologized is to continue seek to be self-aware, honest, to take responsibility for his actions, and to live a life that demonstrates the authenticity of regret.

If I am honest, my “Please forgive me”, was probably motivated by a desire to deal with my discomfort in the face of the hurt I have done, and perhaps even to regain a feeling of some power over the situation. It is true and important that, as Jaqueline pointed out, an authentic “I’m sorry” is not about my need for “anything in return.”

So, where do we go from here? We have heard the stories of our misdemeanours. We acknowledge that we men have often behaved towards women in ways that are abominable, immature, and deeply offensive. What is the next step towards restoration and reconciliation? How do we support a conversation that can move even a tiny bit towards reconciliation and healing?

Perhaps all we can do at this point is to hold the uneasy tension of an unconditional apology. The only legitimate action we can take in the wake of our apology, is the action that is in line with that apology. We certainly cannot tell any woman what she must do to move our relationship onto more life-giving ground for everyone. We must not tell her what she should feel, or how she should respond. We can only commit ourselves to seek to live more deeply and authentically the life of respect, gentleness, kindness, openness, and listening that is in tune with our true nature. As we live this vision, we may find new possibilities and ways of being that start to open between men and women.