Family, Marriage, Counsel
The Power of Permission
by Ed Vasicek
It is kind of funny, but even we grownups are frequently looking for permission. What do I mean by permission? Webster defines permission as "formal consent or authorization." But there is another type of permission that I will call "sociological permission."
For example, many women in the 1920's probably thought of the idea of wearing pants. It wasn't until the 1960's, however, when most women felt like they had "permission" to do so.
Many of us were discreetly patriotic before the terrorist attack we now refer to as "9/11." Since that event, we now have permission to display our patriotism without embarrassment. We will not be socially castigated nor looked down upon as we might have been before 9/11.
When it comes to the "Intelligent Design" movement, the idea that creation is too complex to have occurred by chance, many scientists would flock to this viewpoint because it is where the facts obviously lead. But the peer pressure is too great. The leading scientists refuse to give permission to their peers, and so they cling to the impossibility of random events resulting in...you.
Pastors tend to get permission from other pastors. In a previous article, I mentioned that Rick Warren is a major "permission giver" whereas some other big-name pastors (whose names I'll refrain from mentioning) thrive upon being permission "withholders." They love to scold.
At a Moody Pastor's Conference, one of my favorite speakers of all time was speaking, Howard Hendricks. Howie stated, "Some of you look sleepy. If you fall asleep during the sermon, don't try to wake yourself up and then nod off again. Don't fight it. Sleep freely, just don't snore!"
In essence, there are two kinds of Christians who hold convictions: (1) scolders/legalists who, even if they were unsaved, would still be scolders and rule-bound, and (2) non-scolders who are conservative because their convictions demand it. In other words, some conservative evangelicals are conservatives because it is their personality or upbringing that made them such, while others are conservative DESPITE their personalities or upbringing precisely because they have convictions. I consider myself in that latter category, as are many of you.
And that is where the idea of "grace" comes into play. Scolders try to manipulate others by guilt and fail to realize that such manipulation rarely works. Permission-givers only play the guilt card when issues of truth or decency are at stake.
But permission givers can also challenge Christians toward new heights. In our recent series in Philippians, we saw how Paul's example of faithfully serving Christ in chains gave others permission to serve the Lord more boldly, to "jump in with both feet." Rather than try to coerce unwilling participation, permission givers take along those who are eager to serve the Lord while encouraging and welcoming those who have been on the sidelines, the wonderful phenomenon of the "late bloomer." Such late bloomers would never develop under the leadership of scolders, because scolders demand their pound of flesh, thus intimidating others.
So the question we need to ask ourselves is this: are we permission givers, or are we scolders? And if we are permission givers, can we say "no" and be firm when we need to be? Permission from a weak man or woman is not real permission at all; it is, instead, permissiveness.
And if we are scolders, when are we going to learn that scolding does nothing positive? Scolding is an impoverished form of discipline that merely humiliates others. Confrontation is a great art and can get quite uncomfortable, but scolding does not so much discipline as damage. In child rearing, for example, I would recommend a modest whack on the bottom to a blitzkrieg of painful words.
People are always asking us for permission. When Sally shares, "Sis, I am torn between coming to your birthday party or spending more time with my husband," Sally is begging to be told, "Stay home and spend time with him. I don't mind." What would you tell Sally?
When Ziggy tells his pastor, "My brother from New York is in this weekend for the first time in five years. We always golfed together, but I am having a hard time scheduling a time with him except for Sunday morning," Ziggy is dying to hear: "Go with my blessing. Have a good time."
You see, no matter how old we get, we still sometimes need a sense of permission. So recognize that need and do not be oblivious to it. Be a man or woman of grace.
Reprinted from the September 2005 Body Builder, a publication of Highland Park Church.
Highland Park Church
516 West Sycamore Street
Kokomo, Indiana, USA