Chapter 23 – “What Can I Do To Make It Up To You?”



As we discovered in a previous chapter, coming into honor is coming back into balance – with others, with black and white standards of conduct. It can be a natural and effortless endeavor filled with grace, respect and care for others in our lives. As we also discovered, it can also be a bitch. Literally.

Many a man can make the process quite the ordeal if they:

  • Take a stance of irresponsibility
  • Forgo humility for ego and arrogance
  • Need to be right rather than righteous
  • Hide or avoid situations in which they played a major part
  • Redirect attention away from themselves and their own actions
  • Basically act like a little bitch. Literally.

You set something in motion with your commitment or your word, and it must resolve somehow; there must be a completion. You shook hands. You wrote something in the e-mail. You said it out loud to another, whether you were listening to yourself or not.

The questions are:

  1. Did you follow through on your word, agreement, handshake?
  2. If not, what are you going to do about it?

In the old days – way, way back in the ancient times like the mid-1950s – there was this saying: “What can I do to make it up to you?” That phrase – rarely heard in today’s “no responsibility” generation – holds a lot of power in it. It includes responsibility, ownership and the desire to “give back” to a situation that may have been impacted by one’s misguided action or unconscious lack of action.

As we have hammered home over and over again (with purpose), when you break your word, it’s as if you broke a dish in the kitchen. Are you just going to leave the mess on the floor, or are you going to clean it up?

The same holds true when you break your word; are you going to leave the mess on the proverbial floor for your entire family to step through, or are you going to be man enough to clean up the mess you made for the best of everyone you impacted with your sloppiness?

When out of honor, what can you do?

I’ve had “friends” borrow and lose CDs and then do nothing to return a new CD to me. It seems pretty basic and simple. If you lose or break a piece of property, you replace it precisely as it was when you received it. That’s the no-brainer part. Other breaks in integrity are more confusing, especially to the ego or gargoyle who mainly wants to not lose face and continue the charade of trying to “look good.” He will say anything, spin anything, so he cannot appear less than, and maintain the façade of perfection. The funny thing is the more men attempt to look good, the worse they appear.

For anyone wishing to not simply “look good” but to actually make it good, there are simple steps to take. May I make a simple suggestion? 10 simple words.

These would not include:

  • “I did not do anything wrong; it wasn’t my fault.”
  •  “What did you do to create this in your life?”
  •  “Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah, wah, wah, wah, wah, wah.”

But they are:

  1. What
  2. Can
  3. I
  4. Do
  5. To
  6. Make
  7. It
  8. Up
  9. To
  10. You

In that order please. It’s a powerful statement, a potent question, and there are reasons why. Let’s break it down:

  • First, it’s a question. It puts the person delivering it into a giving mode, and a listening mode, not a forceful ego-driven speaking mode, which can get the “giving back” all muddled with debate and excuse.
  • Second, it requires trust of the other person. It puts the power in the hands of the person being asked the question. Imagine the trust you must have in another to ask them what they would like you to do? Will they ask you to walk 1000 miles; will they ask for 1000 dollars; will they ask for 1000 pushups? Such are the fears of those lacking trust. If you are trusting the other person, you can ask them this question knowing they will only ask for something that will help and support you as well.
  • Third, it’s humbling. That much trust is definitely humbling. Hard to be in your ego while putting yourself at the mercy of another person. The statement shows you are also letting your guard down, and admit to having enough foibles to cause some sort of let down.
  • Fourth, it admits responsibility. You can only ask the question if you are accepting responsibility for a mishap. You wouldn’t be “making up” for something unless you were taking responsibility for your action.
  • Fifth, it shows you see the impact. Like the previous point, to “make up” for something shows there has been some form of diminishing, which would be a negative impact. To make it right again, something will be offered. You can tell by the question, that the person is owning the fact that a negative impact has come upon their friend.
  • Sixth, it creates action. The very word “do” in this question funnels the answer to be in the form of an action, and that can only make it a concrete reparation, based on right action, not some ethereal notion or statement.
  • Seventh, oh it’s just so fun. I just like the number 7, more so than 6 in a listing like this. Isn’t it a blast to consider a trusting relationship where such a question could be asked?

So the phrase, the question of the century? Do you like it? Do you think you will ever use it?

I would love for it to make a comeback. Rescued from oblivion, the question could once again be used by today’s community of honorable men. No longer holding the need for the disloyal to hide in dishonor, we men could retrofit the question (and more importantly the context behind it) for a society ready again for solid and steady relationships. Perhaps placed on t-shirts, coffee mugs, switches, paddles and judge’s gavels, the phrase can be displayed as a representation of our embrace of high-minded respect.

Used whenever necessary for the sake of right action and good relations, the phrase “what can I do to make it up to you” may be just the right thing – rightfully placed in our lives, within our dealings with friends, and right there upon our lips.