The Power (and Misuse) of Men Apologizing to Women

Today I stumbled on a Facebook page of men’s apologies, generalized to All Women Everywhere. (links at end of this post)

I’ve used this exercise in workshops with astonishingly powerful results. Men and women breaking down and sobbing, lives changing, old wounds healing on the spot.

I’ve seen relationships fall apart or rise anew – all based on how apology is used.

Apology is powerful, no doubt. Some of our mistakes need to be righted. And that can be a delicate process.

I have worked with couples who use apology in ways that ultimately sabotage their love – as a method of shaming and blaming and righteous punishment. “Admit what you did, grovel for forgiveness, and promise to never do it again!”

This approach divides, and generates the seeds of future resentment. When men apologize as a confession of sin, women may forgive superficially, but still hold on to their fear and suspicion. Talk is cheap.

But there’s a different approach that doesn’t boomerang.

I’ve been told by Jewish friends that the Hebrew translation of “sin” is an archery metaphor: “missing the mark”. Love that image!

In this spirit, apology is used as a way of coming together in agreement, of saying “this is the target”.

This approach unites. There is relief, and the possibility of love and safety, when we know what our target is. In this common cause, forgiveness naturally arises, and love blossoms.

When you miss the mark, and your behavior causes questions, can you navigate that confusion?

Can you man up, admit fully what you thought and felt and DID? And can you own that without collapsing into self-pity or inflating into egoic righteousness?

Can you find common agreement, get back together on the same page, redefine the target?

Can you rejoin the team, and work together as allies (not enemies), improving each other’s game, honing your skills, hitting the target more and more often?

THAT’S what successful couples do. THAT’S an approach that serves the relationship, and is sustainable over a lifetime of all-too-human, less-than-perfect actions.


(Brought to my attention by Francesca Gentille.)

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  • Jeni

    Beautiful! Thank you so much! The timing of this post is perfect!

    • davidcates

      You seem to have a lot of “perfect timing” in your life these days! ;)

  • Jussi DancingBear

    Nice…! Apology is not something to demand of another, nor is it an admission of being “bad”. It is a recognition of an error. Neither is forgiveness something to withhold or to use to entice another into submission. It is also recognition of an error, a statement of willingness to see beyond it. :-)

    • davidcates

      Nice perspective on the other side of the equation: Forgiveness. Thanks, Jussi!

  • Jayson

    Great post and I wish you would have named the facebook article. You talking about the lame Manifesto for conscious men? I’d like to hear your opinion on that one specifically.

    • davidcates

      Of course you would. Troublemaker! (wicked grin)
      The articles are hotlinked at the end of the blog post.

  • Brooklin

    David – Thank you. I’m on your page!

    • davidcates

      You’re welcome!

  • dana marie

    thank you for this… i knew there was something not quite right going on… yes, recognizing the mistakes is a good thing, and women also need to apologize for their part in holding up the lie… i know that i do not want to be worshipped, as that just puts me on a pedestal, and allows the ‘worshiper’ to negate all responsibility for his own greatness… yuck! i prefer, instead, to be ‘met’… mmet me, hold my hand, look in my eye as a partner and an equal… and let’s move forward from here…
    being a believer in reincarnation, i also hold that i have been both man and woman, good and bad… so i choose to forgive myself of all the ‘partsp’ i have played, learn, and move forward.
    thanx david! love your cutting edge work… gives me hope… <3

  • Ashton358

    Holding out for some new material! Like what you’ve got to say Sir, keep it up.