I’m sure you’ve heard this bit of advice somewhere. It’s a business and life coach maxim, often pushed by gurus of all kinds – businesspeople, politicians, people of success everywhere.
And it’s got its points. If you waited around for permission to everything, you’d wait forever. There are far too many gatekeepers in the world that would rather lock you out through negligence or greed or active hostility than let you succeed.
It is, in many cases, a good idea to just try and see what happens.
The problem is that many of the people who live by this maxim see it as a blanket stamp of approval on all kinds of shitty behaviour.
Cheat on your spouse because the opportunity presents itself and you have no regard for your spouse’s feelings or your own integrity? Ask forgiveness, not permission.
Want to make some money but have to screw over someone to get it? Ask forgiveness. Who cares if they’re innocent collateral damage?
Want to exploit the shit of another employee or employees to get ahead in the company or take credit for someone else’s labour? Gimme those sweet sorrys, baby.
Need to co-opt a democracy and don’t care whether it tramples the rights and freedoms of its citizens and involves using the help of a hostile foreign power and lines your and your greedy little buddies’ pockets with billions while bankrupting the country and turning it on itself through the constant use of bigotry, xenophobia and violent right wing rhetoric on your way to a fascist state? Fuck it. Forgiveness, not permission, right?
This thought process of do and worry about consequences later is only rational when it involves personal empowerment that doesn’t actively harm other people. Most of the time, the ones who forget that fact often end up gaslighting their victims, blaming them for trying to restrict their freedoms instead of recognizing their own culpability.
Ask forgiveness, not permission is a misleading maxim. If what you’re doing isn’t harming anyone else, except maybe in pointless petty disputes brought on by their unnecessary or profiteering gatekeeping, then exercising your personal power to create the life you want shouldn’t involve any apologies.
You shouldn’t have to apologize to bureaucrats for bypassing their unnecessary and often privilege-creating roadblocks. You shouldn’t have to apologize to someone else for creating your own success. Just like permission is often unnecessary, forgiveness should be an unnecessary item as well, if what you’re doing isn’t screwing anyone else over. If you’re just smashing down barriers meant to keep people from success through monopoly or petty bureaucracy or simply ignoring the haters who envy your run at success, have at it. If what you’re doing is actively screwing people over to assuage your ego or line your pockets or feed your thirst for power over others, fuck you.
The maxim should never have been ask forgiveness, not permission.
It should be: Don’t ask permission. Don’t need forgiveness.
If you’re succeeding at life in an ecologically sound manner, meaning achieving your goals without oppressing, exploiting or screwing over other people, then why would you need forgiveness?
Only a person behaving poorly, trying to justify their own shitty behaviour and avoid taking responsibility for their actions would follow “ask forgiveness, not permission.”
Everyone else can do better.