ask for forgiveness not permission

“Ask For Forgiveness, Not Permission.”

“Ask for forgiveness, not permission” is a saying we’ve all heard. But how does this point of view affect a relationship? Does this type of conversation sound familiar?   

“You never ask me my opinion! You just go and do it and expect me to be okay with everything YOU decide! Have you ever thought about what that is like for me? To just be told you scheduled something for us? I am tired of not being heard or valued in this relationship!” 

“…I’m sorry.” 

I recently read an article on Yahoo News about how Jeremy Renner is more the type of person who will ask for forgiveness not permission. If you are interested, you can find the Yahoo article here.

“I feel like Jeremy, maybe, says sorry [and] doesn’t ask permission. He’s one of those people. I’m one of those people,” (Kelly) Clarkson said, and (Scarlett) Johansson agreed.

“Yeah, you’re actually right. I’m not; I’m very by-the-books,” the actress admitted.

Ask For Forgiveness Not Permission: How Does this Affect a Relationship?

This article made me think about conflict in my relationships and how, through regular psychotherapy, the education I have received for mediation, and conversations with others, I have slowly been changing from the “apology type” to the “asking permission type.” In the past, I have been guilty of speaking for others, planning things without input, and acting on things without input from others that affected others. When someone expressed their frustration to me, it sometimes caused me to become defensive. I always made mindful decisions and thought that in most instances, I was only trying to help. I learned to get good at apologizing, but I never changed my actions. 

Apologizing and Asking Permission: Two Sides of the Same Coin

Apologizing and asking permission are both ways of acknowledging and respecting the feelings and boundaries of others, but they serve different purposes and are used in different situations. 

Apologizing is typically used when we have done something wrong or hurtful to someone and want to take responsibility for our actions or words and make amends. For example, if you accidentally bump into someone on the street, you apologize for the mistake. Apologizing is a way of expressing remorse and showing that we regret our actions. 

On the other hand, asking permission is typically used when we want to do something that may affect someone else. For example, if you want to borrow a friend’s car, you would ask permission to use it. Asking permission is a way of showing respect for someone else’s boundaries and property. 

Over a long period, with many relationships, it is easy to assume your partner will be okay with you making decisions on behalf of both of you. This behavior is reinforced when we do not receive pushback due to those decisions. However, I have learned first-hand that making assumptions and decisions without considering my partner can also cause conflict.

For example, when a friend asks if we have plans, instead of saying we have no plans and agreeing to a social event, assuming it will just be okay with my partner, I now say let me get back to you after I check-in and ask if that works for her too. By asking permission, it helps my partner feel more like an equal, they feel prioritized, and they do not feel taken advantage of.  

Another example is when I see someone I am close to that I haven’t seen in a while. As a natural hugger type, I would just hug the person. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, I have asked, “Would it be okay if I hug you?” I realized I couldn’t just assume that everyone was okay with me in their personal space, no matter how close friends we were. This simple tweak helped my friends and acquaintances feel valued and appreciated.  

I have yet to get 100% at asking permission, but I am still working on it! 

In summary, apologizing is about taking responsibility for our actions and making amends for something we did wrong. Asking permission is about respecting the feelings and boundaries of others.