Asking Forgiveness Instead of Permission is Not Easier

Written by Tony Alstott

“It’s easier to ask forgiveness instead of permission,” has become a common statement that I first heard years ago.  I have been hearing it more and more lately to the point that it seems to have become a part of our American culture.  The first time I heard it I immediately felt uncomfortable.  I did not stop to analyze why until recently.

 

First, the statement implies that permission should be asked before proceeding with the action you plan to do.  Your action somehow crosses a boundary that would be a concern to the person you would eventually need to ask forgiveness from.  Not asking permission when you know you should ask permission is a willful and premeditated act.  You have thought about it beforehand and you made the decision not to ask permission.  It would be better to ask permission first rather than taking the easy way.

 

Second, it is deceptive.  When you do something without asking permission you are going behind someone’s back to accomplish something you want to do.  You do it without the person knowing about it until it is already done.  Deception is a form of lying by withholding the truth. It would be better to be honest up front by asking permission instead of being deceptive and then later asking for forgiveness.

 

Third, the course of action creates distrust.  You have the opportunity to be trustworthy by asking permission before moving forward with your intended action.  By intentionally not asking permission first, you have created distrust.  It would be better to ask permission to create on ongoing relationship of trust instead of moving forward with your action. 

 

Fourth, you devalue the person when you choose not to ask permission.  You have decided that what you want to accomplish is more important than the person whose permission you need to ask.  It would be better to ask permission to show that you value the person more than the task you want to accomplish.

 

Fifth, when you ask forgiveness for something when you could have asked permission first, your apology is empty.  You really aren’t sorry for what you did.  You are glad you did it.  You feel justified in doing it.  You did it without consideration of the person you would hurt or the boundary you would cross.  You are really not asking forgiveness at all.  It would be better to care enough to ask permission.

 

God has called me to point people to God and point Christians to the mission field.  Forgiveness is an important part of Christianity.  Jesus forgave us.  We are to forgive one another.  When we ask someone to forgive us, there is an expectation that they must forgive us if we are Christian.  When we willingly cross a boundary without asking permission, with the intent of asking forgiveness, what are we doing?  Are we taking advantage of the person knowing that they must forgive as Jesus forgave?  Are we being selfish, seeking our own gain, at the expense of others?  Is it really easier to ask forgiveness than permission?  Is taking the easy way the goal of the Christian believer?  Perhaps asking forgiveness instead of permission may be easier for the short term but not for the long term.  When we take advantage of other people through deceptive means, I would say that it is harder rather than easier.  It’s easier to ask permission than it is to mend a broken relationship.  It’s easier to build trust than it is to earn the trust of the one you have deceived.  

 

Jesus said to love God and love one another.  Asking forgiveness instead of asking permission is not how we love one another.  Peter encourages us to “love one another deeply from the heart” (1 Peter 1:22). We love one another by being honest, by respecting boundaries, and by valuing people as God’s handiwork. 

 


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