Early in my business and leadership training one of rules of engagement was to “never lead off with an apology!” It was based on the perspective that you would appear weak in your position at the table. Showing vulnerability was forbidden, even fatal. Grip the hand firm, chest out, push hard, back off only when you had dominated and still could maintain control.
I have seen that work best in security and law enforcement. It has several flaws as a strategy for leadership in the workforce, home and community. One of my mentors; a man’s man, a pastor with a brilliant mind, a strong delivery of the truth, a facts/logic approach and a desire to build disciples taught me so much by what he shared about his mistakes. He was able to “find a kernel of truth in every criticism” and he would sometimes lead off a meeting with powerful men by sharing some vulnerable weakness he had, or a recent mistake he had made. “Didn’t that weaken you in their eyes?”, I asked. No, he smiled and said. ‘Actually I gained the upper hand because I had so thrown them off by my approach that they went from standing on the balls of their feet ready to pounce to rocked back on their heels. In that split second, I then asked them a question about them. It opened them up to share with me and enter into a whole new level of discussion and honestly.’
That is amazing. It is counter-intuitive. Not what the leaders tried to instill in me years ago. My friend showed that you could lead with a weakness that becomes the platform for truth and realness in the conversation, negotiation, teaching, etc.
I know a debate could flame up over what I have just shared, but I can also tell you I have used this approach with success. One of the best areas of example is with the marriage ministry work my wife and I have done over the last 18 years. Giving the couples in the group a few ways that I/we have done things that were not helpful in our marriage right at the first of our time together brought the level of anxiousness down in each person. They heard what they instinctively already knew that there are no perfect marriages and that they were not alone in their relationship struggles.
There is much to talk about around that, and if there is interest I can blog about it in the future.
This message is to share two apologies I gave to strangers; well, actually they were really new friends I had come to know, trust and even care about over a short, intensive two-day retreat. The last night of the retreat I felt a burden to ask for forgiveness to both women and men.
In the apology to women, I had not personally done a wrong to the people in the room, but as a man I chose to take the position to represent men. The open acknowledgement of wrong and hurtful behavior to the women by others could be seen as a weak position to take, yet it was a powerful offering to bring forth healing and forgiveness. I am not recommending that you try to assume responsibility for your gender as a whole, but in this time and place it brought about a greater closeness between people.
In the apology to men, I share my regret of not hearing the counsel of those who tried to give it and the failure to try to offer the same to others. As well as calling out the passive men who can make a difference if they would choose to.
Maybe it will have an effect on you, or someone you know that needs to here it. It so, please share.
No men got together and voted for me to represent them to you, so I am saying this on my own. But, I don’t think I am alone is the words of feeling in this message to you.
For all the times that men have used you, abused you, abandoned you, lied to you, failed to stand, support, nurture, serve, and lead you;
For cowardness, weakness, denial, selfishness, withdrawal, anger, blame, lack of spiritual grounding and guidance;
For the times we pressured you for sex, caused you physical, emotional and spiritual pain, for not having self-control to honor, respect and cherish you, your virginity, your purity, your worth;
For when you have been alone, with danger and fears and we ran away instead of running forward to protect you;
For all the joy, dancing, and worship that you deserved to be join in with, but your partner refused;
For all these things and more, we were wrong. I am sorry. Please forgive us.
I apologize to you who are my senior in years that tried to model the way of true, godly manhood and I didn’t listen, look, and seek your ways and truth. I was wrong. I am sorry, please forgive me.
To you who failed to lead me and my generation in the ways of God, your silence, apathy, indifference, fear, neglect, passivity, irresponsibility, and lack of courage has caused great harm. I forgive you.
To my peers that I ran with but didn’t encourage and hold accountable to live as righteous men, to you who are younger that I have failed like my elders did me, I was wrong. I am sorry, please forgive me.