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A Plea to Women for Forgiveness

Here are some powerful, dare I say beautiful words from Michael Cusick. You can see his original post on his blog. 

C.S. Lewis once wrote, “Everyone thinks forgiveness is a wonderful idea, until they have something to forgive.”  The same might be said of the idea of asking forgiveness. It is a wonderful idea. Until we have something for which we need to ask forgiveness.

Today, I am asking women around the world for forgiveness.

I’m not doing so in order to clear my conscience. I’m not doing it as a Fifth Step in a Twelve Step Recovery Program. And I’m not asking forgiveness as some kind of a publicity stunt. So why am I asking forgiveness?

In 1994 I began a journey of recovery from sexual addiction. Prior to this time I lied, manipulated, and used women to selfishly feed my compulsion. I consumed women in an “industry” where the raw materials are women , and sexual conquest is the precious commodity. From porn to prostitution, and everything in between, the common denominator through my actions was an utter disregard for the dignity and personhood of the women before me.

Twenty years after the fact, having experienced a miraculous recovery and restoration, it breaks my heart to realize that some of the women I exploited  were probably victims of sex trafficking, forced to live as  human slaves. Consequently, when I read news articles, blogs, and social media advocating for the end of  human slavery, it get’s personal fast.

In the language of sexual economics, I was the demand which fueled supply–a link in the massive chain that holds women captive. By asking forgiveness I don’t want to be let off the hook, and I’m certainly not asking any woman to forgive and forget. What I’m hoping is that by asking forgiveness, both women and men will begin to experience healing.

The things I’ve done and the ways in which I’ve related to women are simply unacceptable. And yet, increasingly, through porn and the glorification of the sex industry, what was once unacceptable is quickly becoming a celebrated norm.

The words below are directed to women far beyond the sex industry. Every woman has experienced sexism and wounding at the hands of men.

If you are a man:  I encourage you to read the words below. Ask yourself how the words apply to you (even if you have never paid for sex or used porn). Do the words resonate? To whom might you need to ask forgiveness? 

If you are a woman:  I encourage you to read the words below and allow them to sink into your heart. Ask yourself how the words apply to you. What do the words stir inside of your heart? To whom might you need to offer forgiveness? 

Dear Woman,

I stand before you as an imperfect man to offer words of apology to you, my sister in humanity. I apologize for the harm inflicted upon you by men; by my brothers, by my forefathers, by me. In my own brokenness, shame, and selfish need, my words and actions have become links in a chain that bind you. In the same way, my lack of words and actions have fostered injustice against you. For this I ask forgiveness.

I speak on behalf of all men who have wronged you and harmed you. I am your brother, your father, your uncle, your grandfather, your husband.  I am your neighbor, your friend, your boyfriend, your teacher. I am your coach, your counselor, your pastor. I apologize for the ways in which men have exploited you, disrespected you, diminished you,  abandoned you, and despised you because you are a woman. For this I ask forgiveness.

I apologize for how men have violated your rights, not respecting your inherent dignity and worth as a person to fulfill your God-given destiny. I apologize for how men have violated, abused, and used your body as well–not  honoring you or appropriately protecting you. I’m sorry that men have treated you as an object, especially as a sexual object. For this I ask forgiveness.

In my own brokenness and selfish need, I have treated you as a sexual object and used you sexually. I’m grieved for how seeing and treating you as an object caused you to doubt your own worth and beauty, and perhaps to despise your own body. For this I ask forgiveness. 

I am sorry for the ways in which sexual exploitation, control, disrespect, and devaluing, has contributed to many kinds of violence against women and caused you to feel unsafe in this world.

I apologize for how sacred religious texts have been used by men to control you, oppress you, and “put you in your place.”  I apologize for how men have relegated you from leadership, commerce, and positions of influence. I apologize for how men have been threatened by your strength, insight, intuition, and wisdom. I am sorry for how we have diminished your voice and have not listened to your wisdom.

For all of these sins I ask forgiveness.  

And now, Dear Woman, I bless you and honor you as a person. I bless you and honor you as my equal in humanity. I bless you and honor you as a woman–one inherently worthy of respect, opportunity, and rights. 

 On behalf of all men everywhere, 

Michael John Cusick
Littleton, Colorado
United States of America