Our Words Carry Weight

Recently I’ve noticed certain phrases that have caught my eye, and make me stop in my tracks and think. In a society full of diverse interactions, someone who loves words such as I do is prone to noticing when something catches them off guard. 

I’ve heard a few people recently using a phrase which, until I thought about it, didn’t really impact or bother me in any way:

“Ah, well ya know, sometimes it’s just easier to seek forgiveness than ask for permission.”

And I understand where this thought process has come from, and why people tend to adopt it. However, my issue with it is this: where’s the responsibility there? Who’s taking stock of their actions in that sentence? Who is having to deal with the clean up in the end?

That phrase has unearthed a live minefield in my head and my heart. 

I’ve thrown this thought process out to a few friends recently as well, just to see if it was just me that felt this sort of unnerving unease about the message behind that phrase. Turns out I wasn’t the only one with these type of thoughts.

You see, the problem I have with ‘seeking forgiveness instead of asking for permission’ is that what you’re actually saying in that instance is “I don’t trust myself enough to have a brave(difficult) conversation with someone, and therefore I’d rather just try and clean up after I’ve taken action.” 

The emphasis in this statement is placed around making a decision to act on something rather than consulting for wisdom; to me, it is saying that asking for permission for something is a scarier proposition than the idea of asking for forgiveness. 

And to me, this mindset is birthed out of two places:

Not trusting in our authority we have been given to communicate well to someone (and as such, adopting a stance of powerlessness)


That causing a mess and cleaning that up is less challenging, and the easier route.

The ‘easier route’ is actually the route that is less fulfilling, and doesn’t present the opportunity for growth as a person. 

What we’re effectively communicating by saying those words is that we’d rather sit comfortably where we are in life, rather than pursue an opportunity for growth. 

Yes, growth and challenge can be scary, but nobody ever changed the world by sitting on their backside.

If you’re not prepared to take responsibility for your actions, and then aim to seek forgiveness at the other end, then you’re not growing — you’re stagnating. What you’re actually saying is that your actions are more important than your ability to communicate well. 

“Yeah, but sometimes actions speak louder than words!”

Yeah, that’s great and all, but if those actions are birthed out of a place of fear then they’ll communicate the wrong message. The direction in which those actions are pointed will devalue anything with which they come into contact. 

I don’t want you to read this as a condemnation, but rather more of a conviction. Our words, and the manner in which we communicate them have power and consequences. But we can set the path for those consequences from the outset if we’re prepared to embrace brave and challenging communication and kick fear in the face.

Fear has no place in any circumstance, and it should never dictate your ability to communicate brilliantly. 

Author: Ed White