‘Tis sad but true. (Sad because the limerick is terrible. True because the incident really happened.) Last Friday night my daughter baked a lemon cake to take to her Mom’s Club bake sale, but when she came into the kitchen on Saturday morning, a huge chunk was missing. Her husband claims he had no idea the cake was off-limits. She suspects that he knew all along it was probably for something special, but his sweet tooth got the best of him so he helped himself; figuring he’d just apologize later – as in "It’s easier to get forgiveness than permission”.
Believe me, Daniel, I sympathize completely. I use that same "forgiveness over permission” ploy all the time (and the fact that I’m blatantly blabbing about your "crime” in this article, without first checking to make sure you don’t mind, totally proves it!)
Much as I hate to admit it, this practice and I go way back. The first year I was married, for example, I was browsing through a junk store when I spied an old wooden barrel. Immediately I thought "What a darling little end table this would make!” It was only five dollars, but at the time my husband and I were living on less than three hundred a month, so five bucks was an extravagant sum. Nevertheless, like Daniel and the lemon cake, I absolutely had to have that barrel, so I bought it, figuring – you guessed it – that it was easier to get forgiveness than permission.
I’ll bet I know what you’re thinking: "I would never do something like that!” Oh really? Well let me ask you this: Did you ever borrow your sister’s brand new blouse to wear to a party, without asking her? Did you ever volunteer your best friend to co-chair a fundraiser with you, when she wasn’t even at the meeting? Did you ever wait until your husband was out of town to paint your bedroom pink (actually it’s a lovely shade of deep rosy mauve, but to him it’s just "pink”)? Did you – or someone you gave birth to – ever go out on her own and get her ears "double pierced” in high school? Did you – or someone else you gave birth to – ever commandeer a canoe at Boy Scout camp and paddle across the lake with some buddies after midnight to pull a prank on the nearby Girl Scout camp? If you answered yes to any of these questions, congratulations. You are now officially a member of the forgiveness over permission club. (If you answered yes to all of them, what a coincidence. So did I!)
Don’t worry; everybody does this sort of thing at one time or another. The question is, why? I think it’s because whatever it is that’s tempting us is usually a dumb idea and we know it; but our desire to do it, or buy it, or wear it, or eat it, or you-name-it is so strong that it completely overrides our gut instincts. Ignoring that not-so-still, not-so-small voice screaming, "You’ll be sorry!” we seem perfectly willing to encounter all manner of trouble down the road for the sake of a little bit of pleasure right this minute. We’d be so much better off if we could just calmly and firmly tell ourselves no, right from the start and walk away from it. But how do we do that, when we want what we want so badly?
I wish I had the answer to this age-old human dilemma. Alas, all I can offer is this quote my friend Melanie says she learned while attending a Quaker prep school as a girl: "If you shouldn’t… don’t.” If you shouldn’t… DON’T! I can’t tell you how much I wish I’d never heard it, because now that I’ve got that catchy little truth stuck in my head, it’s cramping my forgiveness-over-permission style, big time!
And speaking of forgiveness, next week I’ll be spending a few days with my daughter and son-in-law in Dallas. It’ll give me the perfect opportunity to apologize to Daniel for shamelessly exploiting his weakness just to make a point. I know exactly how to do it too. I’m going to bake him a lemon cake, a chocolate pie, some blonde brownies and a cherry cobbler (did I mention he has a sweet tooth?) and I’ll bet I won’t even have to ask his permission!