Forgiveness vs. Permission

My kids and I were watching television the other day and a commercial came on. I can’t remember exactly what the commercial was advertising, other than it being for a tv show. One of the characters in this commercial made a statement to the effect of “it’s easier to ask for forgiveness later than it is to ask for permission”.

The future lawyer in my family, my 11 year old son, perked up at this statement and looked at me.  I could see the wheels turning.

Oh boy.

For the moment, he was satisfied with a simple response. “No, Son, that’s not how it works in our house.”

Since then, I’ve been mulling that phrase over in my head and thinking about what it really means. The internet has plenty to say about what this phrase means. Some tout is as a motto to live by. Others say that it speaks to acting on behalf of the greater good. The quote is attributed to US Navy Rear Admiral Grace Hopper here and defined succinctly by Wiktionary this way:

It is better to act decisively and apologize for it later than to seek approval to act and risk delay, objections, etc.

Whatever the original intent behind this quote, it has been twisted and used to justify everything ranging from minor infractions to full-on criminal acts. For me, there is no nobility of taking chances to get ahead or benefit the greater good behind this statement. At it’s core, this statement simply means:

I am going to do what I want to do now, regardless of the rules or how it makes you feel. I will deal with the consequences later.

This quote ranks right up there with the concept of instant gratification and if it feels good, do it. It is indicative of a self-centered, entitled mindset, smacking of corner cutting and a me, me, me attitude that lacks empathy for others.

I don’t want that for my son, for any of my children. My hope is that their father and I are instilling in them an understanding of right and wrong and the ability to have empathy for others. Instead of thinking only of themselves and stepping all over the feelings of others to get what they want.

And I know this definitely won’t be the last time this kind of discussion comes up with my future lawyer.












































































































































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