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Continuing my quest for justice in conversations across the intertoobz, I encountered this  interesting gender tendency around saying sorry. “Justice” within marriage requires an interest in your spouse’s perspective, sorrow for their suffering, and a willingness to name evil for what it is. Empathy. On both sides. No empathy, no connection.

This is a very feminine perspective of course, but in order to feel loved, women need safety and justice. You want women to feel loved because, well because there are great perks there. Women function best when we feel loved. What is it to feel loved? Safety, justice, protection, provision. Men tend to feel love as something more entwined with respect.

Someone smart once said the secret to a good marriage is just one-act of forgiveness after another. I think that is really true, and we are just speaking of the trials and tribulations of daily living here. Unforgiveness over a pair of socks left on the floor can fester, it can soon become contempt, and contempt is the opposite of respect. So now you have a man feeling unloved, and an unloved man’s perception of justice is generally hostile, revenge based, and he’s in attack and defend mode. She will feel no sense of safety, justice, protection, provision in that situation, and an unloved woman, well that’s an ugly thing, too.

I perceive saying “sorry,” as simply empathy, justice, love. It is not related to fault, blame, repentance, or hanging one’s self in sack cloth and ashes. It is a casual, empathetic response. I’m sorry traffic was bad. I probably say I’m sorry a dozen times a day. It means “I’m sorry that happened to you, I see your sorrow, it’s not your fault, that was wrong.” That is the essence of emotional justice. You hear those words enough you start to feel a sense of emotional safety.

Listening to a lot of men however, I noticed they seem to perceive having to say, “I’m sorry,” with admitting fault, taking blame, promising to fix it, genuine repentance,the need to ask for forgiveness, shame, sorrow, submission, weakness, and even the idea that you are lying, that you are saying “sorry”simply as appeasement. Whew! It was like unpacking luggage from a 20 year trip around the world. Big emotional stuff, baggage.

I asked my husband about it, because he’s the only expert I have on hand for all things manly, and he agreed to some extent. Sorry in his mind is either major repentance or it’s lying for the purpose of deceiving someone. Allegedly it is “different” when women say it. We are simply expressing “feelings.” His sorry requires action, something substantial, physical, tangible.

When I think about it, he’s probably “sorry” about three times a week, whereas I am sorry perhaps 74 times. Bit of a gap there. On the other hand, he does manage to convey and communicate that sense of “sorrow,” aka concern for my well-being, to satisfy that need for emotional justice, in other ways. Not perfectly of course, but enough that I can sense it.

It was a profound discovery with huge implications, because while reading the words of those men, their inability or unwillingness to in someway communicate and convey “I’m sorry that happened to you, I see your sorrow, it’s not your fault, that was wrong,” would flat-out indicate a doomed relationship to me. Divorced. It just screams out to me, I don’t care about you at all.

I find this especially sad, because for some I think they just genuinely don’t get it, they just don’t understand. There are communication gaps between men and women sometimes, different ways of perceiving interpersonal relationships, and often men are not raised to operate in the emotional realm in quite the same way. They cannot see what they do not know.

So, here you go. Every woman I know of needs to hear some form of “I’m sorry that happened to you, I see your sorrow, it’s not your fault, that was wrong.” Empathy. An affirmation and provision of emotional justice.