Chapter 22 – Consequence vs Punishment / Apology vs Accountability


This chapter explores those moments after your word is broken or you’ve had a break with some form of integrity. So… what follows?

  • You can hide in the bushes or under a freeway.
  • You can come clean, and admit the truth to someone and then walk away.
  • You can apologize.
  • You can be punished.
  • You can give back to those you impacted in some form that is natural, acceptable and admirable, revealing the awareness that there is a “consequence” to every action.
  • You can wait for the Lords of Karma to deal out your karmic retribution later on, perhaps in the next lifetime.

Although we will cover much of these territories, I think it’s vital that we get something straight right away: the act of punishment is complete bullshit.

Not that much of our society would agree. Parents, plaintiffs, judges, lawyers and other court jesters, as well as those betrayed in the realm of relationships would not take kindly to a world without punishment. “Hang `em, lock `em up, give me their money. They don’t deserve anything else.” Such a punishing mentality does much to serve the side of the “plaintiff” or those who feel they have been wronged.

But what about serving the defendants or those out of honor? How would one in our society take care of these folks, who – last we checked – most likely are still human beings with the same needs, desires and foibles as any of us? With punishment, we can close the books, label the criminal, burglar, murderer, asshole as we wish, and then lock them away in our minds and in reality. With punishment, we can put them into a nice box in our minds – “bad guy” – just like it’s easy to do with fictional and one-dimensional characters such as Darth Vader, Lee Harvey Oswald and Osama Bin Laden.

As the media and political propaganda supports – and all us sheep eat up – it’s easy to make it very simplistic – one bad guy in one black hat that is put away behind bars to never ever harm our innocent little town again. Bad guy bad. Good guy good. And that’s how it shall stay. But what if you are the bad guy one of these times, as you have had a lapse in common sense, or you’ve snapped and done some major crime: stolen some money, cheated a friend – or you’ve committed a minor crime: stolen some money, cheated a friend, broke your word, forgot to pay someone back, hid out instead of coming clean on a commitment? What then sayeth you?

With punishment, we need not consider restoring anyone to a sense of honor, which, I believe should be at the root of all accountability. Punishment allows for someone mightier than another, holier than thou, to throw the first stone and claim one to be “bad” and needing some sort of penance. Oh boy! It’s akin to getting the switch from an enraged father, lying through his teeth with a “this will hurt me more than you.”

The other option besides punishment has been given different terms: reparation, restoration, make amends, pay back with a consequence, atonement (being “at one” again). So what is the difference? It’s subtle, but it’s vital we grasp the idea here. The difference has to do with what this book has been describing all along. It has to do with honor.

With honor as a guiding principle, the man isn’t punished by another authority who gives him a child-like “time out.” He isn’t seen as “bad” or labeled something “less than” by the rest of society. He is simply “out of honor,” having performed some action that has lowered his own sense of self. He isn’t seen as bad or stuck in this designation. He is seen as one still holding the same honor he has always had; he has simply and temporarily fallen from this state of being. Whereas the punished man is dirty through and through and is thrown away in disgust, the man of consequences paid is only tainted on the surface and merely may need – simply – a cold shower to “clean up.”

No matter the severity of the brokenness, the man of consequence can do something, some action, to restore his honor to a rightful place. He mustn’t remain in a prison literally or in anyone else’s mind. He must be given a way back. Either he can devise a way or he can enlist the support of another to find that pathway.

The one to really confirm this pathway would be the one who has been impacted the most by his misstep. Once the man injured discovers and communicates an action the offender can take to make up for the transgression, there is a chance for an offender to be transformed back into a state of honor – a designation everyone in the situation would want deep down anyway. The honorable act of “giving back” for the giver and the receiver can truly be a high experience once both truly surrender to it.

Well that was pretty confusing. Perhaps we need a simple example. You in?

Here is a fun one from the TV show “Friends.” Chandler kissed the girlfriend of his bud Joey. Joey was pissed off: “I would never go behind your back like that.” Long story short, Joey decided that the way back into honor for Chandler would be Chandler sitting in a small box for six hours. Did Chandler do it? Of course he did it. He loved Joey. Men do shit like that. It may not be logical or meaningful to the one looking for meaning. But for men who understand the actions that bring us back into honor, sitting in a box makes all the sense in the world. According to the episode, the meaning of the box was threefold:

  1. It gave Chandler time to think about what he did.
  2. t showed Joey how much he means to Chandler.
  3. It hurt!

Totally makes sense … even without all that explanation.

Oh, and here’s one that really happened: My buddy Bryce and I took a trip to Disneyland with his wife and kids, as well as my girlfriend. At the start of the line for Splash Mountain a Disney employee said Bryce’s 4-year-old daughter Zoey would be able to go on the ride. After standing in line for an hour, poor little Zoey was turned away at the front of the line for being too short. Feeling regret, the ride monitor at the front of the line gave Zoey a free pass to the front of the line for the Peter Pan ride – for her and all her friends. This is the ride that Zoey really wanted to go on, but there had been too long of a line. Now it was possible. Did this make up for the snafu? Yes it did. Were there any hard feelings after the experience? No there weren’t. Good job Mr. Splash Mountain dude.
There are many examples in our society where one receives after having been taken.

  • Coupons for free oil change after the service station has you waiting unnecessarily.
  • A meal wiped off of the tab due to poor service.
  • A friend taking you to lunch after forgetting to pick you up at the airport.

These are all examples of someone giving back after faltering, and compromising a sense of trust.

What’s happening in all of these cases is a return to balance. With a broken word, and a promise left unfulfilled, there is imbalance in the world. With the right action, that balance can be restored. It’s nothing new actually as it comes in various forms and terms through the ages: “what goes around, comes around,” the law of karma, the act of atoning. The Native American Indian understood the depth of this balance concept, as he would offer something to Mother Nature to energetically replace what he was taking with the kill of the day. He would offer a prayer, a bead, a ceremony. He knew the depth of how nature truly worked. “Giving” helps “taking” come into balance. When we break a commitment, we are taking something away from that person awaiting the fulfillment of that promise. With a void created and a sense of trust left at risk, the only option to rectify the situation is an action, a giving, a restoration.

I – like some men in my men’s division – enjoy using the term “clean up.” It’s the term we use for a man giving back or performing a “consequence.” We say he is being “cleaned up.” It makes sense as he is symbolically cleaning up a mess he’s made. I often use the analogy of breaking a dish in the kitchen. Would you leave that mess on the floor? When you break your word, would you leave that mess too? Would you make a big deal out of cleaning it up, or would you just do it because it’s the right thing to do? In the mess up experienced in relationships, I believe the key is to give back to the one affected with some form of action. A word of “sorry” only goes so far, and an excuse can only make things worse. Though words relieve, they do not restore.

The only thing worse than the empty apology is the excuses that can pile up on a heap of meaningless muck. Oh my freaking god, have you heard the excuses? What good are these? Even if the person has the greatest excuse in the world, it doesn’t make up for the mess left behind. Even with a flat tire, the friend is left at the airport waiting. Even with the kids sick at home, the friend is left at the airport waiting. Even with anything you could ever say, the friend is left at the airport waiting. And his plight and his circumstances matter. Do they not? The excuse puts the energy and attention on the one who’s broken his word. Is that where the focus belongs? Or should it go to the one let down, left in the cold or left at the airport waiting?

One equipped with an armful arsenal of excuses must believe that broken agreements have no consequence. Do they believe a swift apology will make up for agreements busted? That is ludicrous. Who needs words given to them when actions were promised? Match promise for promise. Action for action. Do something to make up for your dropped-out word. As opposed to the fake and unhelpful, “Oh, it’s alright, no biggie, we understand” – which most people offer – it’s our choice to speak up and ask for restoration. It’s our duty to live not on the terms of a sloppy world, but to broadcast a masculine spirit and let others know these basic truths we hold dear in an honorable world:

  • There are always consequences to our actions.
  • Actions and consequences are not right or wrong, good or bad, just natural experiences in the world of the masculine.
  • If you break an agreement, this creates a break in trust, and this trust will remain compromised until it’s restored.
  • If you break an agreement, your word as a man has been compromised. Your honor is tainted.
  • There are always ways to come back into honor that uplift you and restore your community’s faith in you.
  • This routinely requires an action, and not a simple word of apology.

In our men’s division we have “the consequence” – we make these physical most times, since men dig physical action over a bunch of words. We make sure the “consequences” are not overly harsh but still have a bit of a sting. Fifty pushups, a lap around a nearby tree.
Sometimes the consequence is something silly, so the one giving back is not caught up in thoughts of punishment or heavy-laden guilt. We give such consequences whenever we feel let down by another teammate, or whenever that man has broken our team or division standards. It’s done for both parties – the one let down and the one who broke the trust.

When a division man cleans up with a consequence he does so for himself first, so he is clean and clear in his mind, and doesn’t get stuck in his head about his misstep or how he has impacted the bigger circle. He also does the “clean up” for the other person or team he impacted, so that this symbolic gift can replace the void created with the infraction. When he cleans up, the brokenness is mended, the unity is restored, and the past is GONE. Never again, will a man bring up whatever was broken since this giving back wipes away any of the negativity experienced with the fallout. Even with the positive aspect of this ritual, men driven by shame will go into hiding or get defensive after falling out of honor. However, men driven by the clarity of the black and white accountability over a feminized and emotional reaction, come to their rational senses after a time. Ultimately, men of integrity feel their own regret and then do something to make up for their mishaps. And all is well in Toontown again.

To make it simple, here are the “Four Steps” or “Four A’s” to complete a broken honor:

  1. ACKNOWLEDGE – admit humbly what has taken place.
  2. ASSESS – (no, not asses) learn the lesson from the experience.
  3. APPLICATION – communicate a new commitment and apply the lesson to your life.
  4. ATONE – give back to the person or situation in some way.

Since this may be a brand new type of activity and mindset for many of you reading this, I offer these basic tips when “cleaning up” a friend or teammate with a consequence:

  1. Lead with curiosity – not with what you think you know, but what could be true for the man out of honor. What happened dude?
  2. Lead with care and the desire for the positive conclusions: a man in his power, a relationship that holds no strain, and an honor that holds no cracks.
  3. Don’t leave things hanging afterwards. Make sure both of you feel clean and uplifted.
  4. Do the clearing immediately.
  5. Do it in person or at the least on the phone.
  6. Do it one on one at first if at all possible. Making it a public decree can break confidentiality, and subtly invites the men into a feminized system of story telling and gossip.
  7. Bring in help if you need it, such as a men’s circle dedicated to each man’s best interest.

The one tip for the one getting “cleaned up” by another man?

1. Simply trust the man.

Now there is another option in this scenario, one not always considered. Imagine the man out of honor to be PROACTIVE in his situation and coming forth with an action BEFORE being called out by another man. Sure there is karma; sure the mighty “Universe” will take care of all imbalances, but why not play an active role in your own atonement? Imagine stepping up and being proactive in giving back, ultimately creating a space of “responsibility” over “accountability.” Imagine the difference there. Take a few seconds to ponder that one.

(Insert Jeopardy game-show music here.)

Though acting responsibly and stepping up on our own is the most empowering scenario, it’s not always the case. Often a man must have an oversight brought to his attention. And that’s not always an easy communication – for either party. It’s not easy to be the one who is called out on the carpet and requested to give back for the sake of your honor. We want to divert attention, find an escape, blame some outside force.

It is also equally as difficult to be the one calling another man out on his lack of standards or honor. It actually may be one of the most difficult actions a man can take with another man. And why is that? For help with this quandary, I asked a few men in my men’s division for the answers…

Why is it difficult for men to call another man out on his broken word? Why would he NOT do it?

It’s uncomfortable – Ryan
Because he wants to be his friend – Chris
Out of fear of confrontation, fear of risking the relationship, and because of the secret deal: if I don’t call him out, maybe he won’t call me out in return – Marc
Because he’s afraid the other man won’t like him … or the other man isn’t very important to him – Bill
He’s not in a relationship where that’s expected or it would break his own standard or principal to do that – Fred
To keep the peace in an employment, family or hostile situation – Matt
Because the man is out of honor himself – Scott

Now here is another interesting question related to the first one. Why WOULD a man call another man out?

To not sell him out and to care about the man – Willy
To have a deep, meaningful, and honorable relationship – Chris
To help the other man reflect on the impact of his behavior and to start the process of letting go of the effects of the behavior – Matt
To benefit both men as the relationship between them develops – Ryan
To enjoy pointing out the shortcomings of others – Scott
To establish the trust that goes with the truth – Bill
To honor the relationship, respect the relationship, and create clear boundaries over what is expected in a mature masculine way – Marc

No matter which side we are on, we have the opportunity to see the beauty in caring enough about another man to either reveal our perceptions, or be open to hearing his. If we are wise, we won’t go into debate or defense, but look at what is true and real. We can realize the care that is behind any expression. We can also realize the black and white nature of specific situations that does display the truth – the fact we were not, for example, in the designated place at the designated time.

One of the most difficult concepts any man (even division man) can comprehend is related to the black and white nature of our standards and commitments. Am I really late to the circle if I was detained by traffic, my son’s baseball game, a mild heart attack that took me to the hospital?

What do you think? Is a man late under those conditions? The answer is yes of course, he is late. Is he guilty? Is he to be punished? Never ever is a man in this situation, or any other situation, to be guilty or punished. Is he held accountable? Yes, if we are all smart, the man is held accountable. Can he still give back to a circle for the breaking of his word? Yes.

This may take some stretching of the mind here.

The man who is upset at being held accountable to the black and white standard may go into debate at this time, with an understanding that a man’s word is conditional and subject to circumstances out of his control. This man is living a feminized existence. With an emotional reaction, he may be getting caught up in a past where he was labeled “bad” and punished by an outside force telling him it was his fault. But we are not talking about fault here, and we do not speak of being bad. We speak of the standard being upheld or not upheld – clearly defined – and then the need to make that clean and clear again if it is not upheld. Only those wanting to escape punishment and a prison-sentence identity would see the process so negatively. Who else would debate the black and white standards so they can become all soft and gray? Who else would place his emotions and a need for empathy higher than the bottom line truth of the final stat and the final fact – was he in honor, yes or no?

Men of power can offer the sort of masculinity that is grounded in fact not emotion, grounded in a foundation of clarity and truth. Such masculinity is part of the pathway home to an honor that need not be debated, but simply represented in clear terms. This is part of our pathway home to honor.

For it’s true, men know when they are out of balance. Whereas a woman feeling upset about a situation may have the knee-jerk reaction of wanting to talk, gain empathy or cry, a man’s knee-jerk reaction to upsetting situations is often action. We have already stated how guilty or upset feelings can be a call for the honorable man to take action.
This can’t be stressed enough. When guilt comes into the picture, the immature boy runs and hides or wants to push guilt away. The mature masculine wishes to make things right again with some form of restorative action. Not every free thinker sees it this way.

As author Bernie Siegel writes, “When guilt rears its ugly head, confront it, discuss it and let it go. The past is over. Forgive yourself and move on.”

Siegel doesn’t see the beauty in guilt as a call to action. His path is more of a feminine approach as one would talk about it and “release” with a mere thought of forgiveness. A masculine approach would say approach it directly, listen to it and heed its call to action. The past is in the present if you have not yet dealt with it. And one way to deal with it is to embrace it, take action, make amends and move forward with your newfound expansion and growth.

When Siegel, and many like him, state the need for forgiveness, we may question whether the common concept of “forgiveness” can be enough. Is it sufficient for one to ask for forgiveness and the other to grant it? Do we need an action if forgiveness is granted? You would have to be the judge on that one, but for me, it’s not enough to “forgive and forget” since people normally do neither of these!

For the honorable man, and the full return to honor, one needs some form of responsive action.

My dear friend Azim Khamisa, whose 20-year-old son Tariq was murdered in a gang-related ambush in 1995 while delivering pizzas, offered the hand of forgiveness to the family of the murderer as well as the murderer himself, even visiting him in jail. What he offered Tony besides an unconditional forgiveness was also a job with the Tariq Khamisa Foundation once he is released from prison. This sort of job will not only lift Tony up but also help countless numbers of at-risk children vulnerable to a life of gangs, violence and murder. What Azim is supporting in this scenario is what many term “restorative justice,” a new way of looking at a system of justice.

According to James O’Dea from Cultivating Peace, “Restorative justice arises from a deep sense that both the injury and responsibility for it are collectively experienced. It offers both victims and offenders a chance to grow and in so doing helps interrupt the transmission of wounding.”

In the home of restorative justice, in the aboriginal people of New Zealand and Australia, when a youth offends or breaks some law, the entire village shows up and sits in a circle with the youth in the center. Each member then reinforces a positive aspect of the youth’s character. The youth is then encouraged to mend whatever is broken (a fence, a piece of property, a word) along with the victim. This way the youth remains connected to the community and is less likely to re-offend.

This is one of the most beautiful topics covered in this wondrous and wild world of broken dishes, broken words and consequential cleanups. This is transcendental. For imagine a reality wherein the plaintiff and defendant, the giver and receiver, the man let down and the man feeling down in these scenarios are equally held in high esteem.

As we have noted, normally the guilty defendant is left in a prison of his own making or the command of the punisher. In the system of honor I propose, it is not only the one who was impacted by the infraction that receives what he needs; the one who is out of honor also receives what he needs. Woah. Imagine that. Not only does the one in honor receive a gift – in the form of some action from his friend, but also the one out of honor receives a gift, and that comes as the pathway back to honor we have referenced. Imagine being a man out of honor, but being so cared for that others, even the one in conflict with you, work to help you back into a place of high honor. This sort of care and love goes far beyond a lowly punitive system of punishment and monetary sanctions. Both sides must be lifted up since both are harmed by the act of dishonor. Again, may I say… woah!

Man, that is beautiful, and it’s a scenario you will not find in most scenes of responsibility and honor, nor in those big court buildings constructed as shrines to accountability gone cold and careless. It’s rare, but it can exist in our world. I have proof.

I will leave this chapter with one great experience recently encountered with a man of honor. Matt is his name. I had the uplifting experience of having a man come over and simply wash my girlfriend’s car. He did it to bring honor to himself and to his care for Jennifer. Earlier in the week, he was in the back seat of my girlfriend’s car while I was driving. Having found crumbs from his food and some trash in the back, Jennifer asked me about it. I told her that I would handle it.

I immediately told Matt how much that sucked – to not “honor the site” or Jennifer in that way.

And what did he do? Did he get defensive? Did he justify his actions with some philosophy? Did he spin it around on me and blame me somehow? No. In order to give back to a situation in which he was acting unconsciously, he chose to not just pick up his trash, but also wash and detail the car. He came over on a weekend day and made sure that car sparkled inside and out.

This is the world in which I wish to live. This is the system to which I wish to prescribe. One in which we – as humans – see our part in the play of life, the impact we have on each other. And when we act in ways where our best is out front, we celebrate and share the joy. When we falter – and we will as humans, oh yes we will – we have a choice to give back in some graceful and humble way. This is the beautiful world humanity can express.

I may not fully comprehend the inner web workings of karma, and the law of retribution, but there is one thing I do know: when my friend came over to detail that car, the universe seemed just perfect to me, the honor was high, integrity was restored, and all concerned were in a good place with it all.

It is a story I will tell again and again, with pride in a man who knows the value of keeping his honor intact, and the bigger circle that would have such a system of honor in place.