Trivium Pursuit

It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission

It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission. — a quote generally attributed to U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Grace Hopper

Alternate renderings:

    If it’s a good idea, go ahead and do it. It is much easier to apologize than it is to get permission.

    Don’t ask for permission when forgiveness is easier.

    Better to say sorry than to ask permission.

    Don’t waste your time caring about the needs of others, just do what you want. If they don’t like it, you can fix that by apologizing.

    It is often used to describe risk takers — risk taker or someone who just wants to get his own way, consequences be damned.

    When I was a kid, I used to pray every night for a new skateboard. Then I realized, the Lord doesn’t work that way. So I just stole one and asked Him to forgive me.

    Yes! Unwilling sexual participants, here I come! Oh, and could you forgive me?

    “I don’t give people respect, they earn it.” I’ve never met someone who lives by that phrase who didn’t turn out to be an as…..

    Sometimes it is better to ask for forgiveness than permission. Break the rules if it is best for the team, then say “sorry.” Be accountable for results, not processes.

Notice that Admiral Hopper never commented on what is better, she just said what is easier.

There may be acts without formal permission which are nevertheless acceptable because of implicit permission. A little child has stepped out into traffic, the sign reads, “Don’t Walk,” but permission is implicitly given in the case of an emergency where waiting for the sign to change will further endanger the child’s life.

But we are talking about deliberate actions which require formal permission, where an act without formal permission is presumptuous. In such cases, because of the immense difficulty placed in the way of determining genuine repentance, forgiveness is much more difficult than permission ever could be. After a willful, lawless, and presumptuous act, repentance would be a mere convenience — a superficial dressing, a cloak to cover one’s ways — and anyone who would readily either seek or grant forgiveness would be diluting the meaning of forgiveness down to a meaningless formality. Genuine forgiveness is always free, but never cheap. Mere words cannot establish someone’s genuine repentance from a presumptuous act. Only a long period of hard labor in the direction of honor and respect can properly restore some level of confidence in a person who has violated the very foundations of confidence. Only a fool readily — if ever — puts the verbally repentant embezzler in charge of the accounts. Indeed, the genuinely repentant would neither seek nor accept such a charge. Anyone who would say that others will have to accept and thereby passively forgive his presumptuous act — they will have to live with it — displays the deep hardness of conscience of a thorough bully who holds in contempt anyone standing in the way of his desires.

The orderly and beautiful process of obtaining lawful permission is much easier than the hard, messy, and ugly business of obtaining genuine forgiveness for presumption.

Romans 3:8 And why not say, “Let us do evil that good may come”?—as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say. Their condemnation is just.

Romans 6:1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?

Romans 6:15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not!

One Response to “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission”

  1. jennie Says:

    Given that this expression was first used by a female admiral, I believe she was speaking about excessive rules and regs in government which prevent anything from getting done, but as usual, this expression is being twisted. You know full well it does not in any manner pertain to spiritual forgiveness or a licence to sin. I am a born again Christian and not a devil’s tool but i am also a government worker who at times has circumvented rules in order to get the job done and to help those I serve. Yes I am a sinner and I ask forgiveness daily but circumventing unreasonable rules isn’t something I feel guilty about.