The Magic of Permission

I am who I am, and have the life I have, because I was given permission to.

This fact has been high in my awareness for the last couple of weeks. We are bundles of permissions and restraints, mostly received from others. I’ve written that I sometimes burst into song. I’m able to do that unself-consciously, because I was given permission to. But most people have had that freedom taken away from them. Where there could be a song, there’s silence, instead. Not too long ago, having music at all depended on families, friends, or individuals singing or playing instruments. (Now 99% of our musical intake is recorded and commerical… and with iPods, increasingly isolated.)

I was given permission in my youth to think for myself and research information. Many people have been given restraints in those areas instead, and were given permission only to think the same thoughts, about the same things, that their parents did.

Of course, my youth wasn’t entirely rosy (far from it). Instead of normal permission, I was given tight restraints in the area of doing, such that the doing side of my life is still under-developed. I need to consciously give myself permission to do and experience more.

Sometimes I had to fight for permission. I can see much of how I became a spiritual questor came from fighting in my youth for the right to worship outside of the permitted channel of my parents’ denomination. (It was a long and grueling fight, BTW.)

Gaining permission is not something that ends with childhood, and neither is the grace that it blesses the soul with. And just as restraints and inhibitions are often unconscious, the giving and receiving of permission is often unconscious, too. Also, understand that I’m not writing about permission in its negative view as something bestowed by a “superior” to an “inferior.” I’m talking about blessing, encouragement, affirmation, or just letting another be as they are. The psychological effect is the same: OK-ness. Permission. The lowering of a psychological barrier.

I recently thanked a close friend of mine for the gentle permission he gave me a few years ago to proceed with the next step on my spiritual journey. He was very surprised. He had no idea that much of my spiritual growth over the last several years had its root in a single kind sentence he said to me.

He’s not alone. There are many others. And those are only the ones I’m aware of. When I posted my concerns about blogging a few weeks back, several of you gave me permission to take it farther. Thank you.

To some degree, all of our words are all either contributing to this extending of blessing, or its opposite. C.S. Lewis said that in everything we say or do is helping other become like demons or angels. Another Anglican, John Donne, simply said, no man is an island.

Alan Watts wrote a book on The Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are. For what it’s worth, you’ve got my permission to break it.

3 thoughts on “The Magic of Permission

  1. Jon – this post motivated me to once again do some wandering around in your blog and website. In so many ways, I feel a deep kinship with you. I was particularly touched by your post called The Suck. Honest confessions are, to me, the best way we have to help encourage others to take an even deeper step down the path. I respect your bravery.

  2. I like what you’ve written, but am not sure that “permission” is the most descriptive word… but I get what you mean, nonetheless.

    When one’s being driven to go someplace (this reminds me of Jesus being driven by the Spirit out into the desert to be tempted…oh, that’s a nice, friendly comparison to make) it would seem that permission, as it were, comes from within.

    But affirmation, encouragement – always helpful. And not that it’s at all easy to trust the inner voice over all the outer ones. But you know that. But I thought it worth mentioning.

  3. Thanks, Mark. And I feel likewise about yours.

    Julie, you’re quite right. “Permission” and “barrier” are both within. Outside influences can have the effect of triggering, reinforcing, or changing them.

    Yeah, and sometimes its as gentle as being driven into the desert!

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