taking the words of Jesus seriously

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” whose raw materials are women, and whose precious commodity is sexual conquest. 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, I am heartbroken. My heart breaks for the women that I used to feed my selfish desire. My heart breaks for women, whatever the reason, who provide some kind sex for pay. My heart breaks that we live in a world where women are treated as if their only real value is to gratify men’s sexual desire.

Only now do I  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.

Granted, not every woman in the sex industry has been trafficked or enslaved. But every woman in the industry is a casualty within a system of sexual free enterprise. In such a system, supply is contingent upon demand. In the language of sexual economics, I was the demand fueling supply–a link in the massive chain holding women captive.

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.

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 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? How have you wounded women knowingly or unknowingly? To whom might you need to ask forgiveness? 

If you are a woman…

I encourage you to read the words below.  Allow them to sink into your heart. Ask yourself how the words apply to you. What do the words stir inside of you? Who are the men in your story who have  wounded you? 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.

For this I ask forgiveness.

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.

Also by Michael: A Pastor’s Struggle with Sex and Porn Addiction

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 equality of rights.

Finally, I will labor to make this blessing a reality. I will stand against misogyny in all its forms, and and at every opportunity use my voice for good on behalf of all women around the world. 

On behalf of all men everywhere,  

Michael John Cusick
Littleton, Colorado
United States of America

What are your thoughts, feelings, and response to what I’ve written and asked of women? I would love to hear your thoughts.

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