Permission Slips

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I was raised with a list of rules. Things I wasn’t supposed to do. Things that were considered “of the devil.” Things I was supposed to avoid at all costs. The rules created a structured world where everyone thought the same, acted the same, and believed the same.

It was white-washed and clinical.

It was overkill.

The rules constricted instead of shaped. They controlled rather than directed.

Here are some examples:

Women don’t wear pants. Ever. For any reason. Skirts only. (so limiting…)

If music has a drum in the background, it is forbidden. (also electric guitars are sinful.)

Only G-rated movies and shows. (But the Mary Tyler Moore show was riding the line because she wore pants.)

Do not talk back. (no voicing your opinion or thinking for yourself.)

Ladies do not work outside the home. The goal of a woman is to be a wife and mother.

I could keep going but the list gets really absurd. Also, all the rules make me feel sluggish. I don’t have the energy to keep up with them all. My family even had a rule, at one point, if you quoted a movie, you had to immediately quote a Bible verse as well. You can’t know more about movies than the Bible! One, two, three—recite!

I like rules. I like achieving inside a structure. I like feeling ‘put together.’ I like being superior to someone else because I’m an ace in regulations.

I seem to remember another crowd of people being good at rules.

The Pharisees.

I seem to remember this group disliking a certain person who didn’t follow the rules.


He was always getting in trouble with the religious leaders, wasn’t he? He was eating with unwashed hands, hanging out with the sinners, and healing people on the Sabbath. He talked back, challenged authority, and called for great reforms in the rules.

He said, “I’ve come to give life more abundantly.”

The older I get, the more I realized abundant life isn’t found in rule-keeping. It’s found in living in the flow of the Spirit, listening for the voice that cries out, “This is the way –walk in it!”


So, I wanted to share the things that I have discovered that are good for the soul, enrich the mind, and add to the ongoing discussion of Life and God and creativity.
One of my favorite authors, Elizabeth Gilbert, says her job is to “give people permission slips”, specifically regarding their creativity.
But today I’m going a step farther.  I’m giving out permission slips to break the rules.

I know you have a voice in your head, telling you “you can’t” or “women don’t ” or “a man never. ” maybe it was your parent or cousin or coworker or church or institution or a book you read when you were 15 and vulnerable.

Ignore the voice.

For anyone looking for something more than a list of guidelines,
For the bored and restless,

For the yearning hearts,

here goes.

It’s ok to be friends with a person you don’t always agree with. The world is so much bigger than my backyard. I want to be reminded of what life is like for someone other than myself.

It’s ok to listen and not give a commentary on every thought. I give myself permission to sit and not give a sermon at every discussion. Let someone else do the talking.

It’s okay to be wrong. In fact, this is a great antidote to pride. It’s good—very good—to say, “I’m sorry, I was wrong.”

It’s okay to read a book and enjoy it, even if you don’t see eye to eye with its author. Everyone can teach us something.

It’s ok to listen to all types of music. It’s good to feel all those emotions and to hear words that give voice to the depths of one’s soul. Sometimes, the most unlikely artist can be the voice of God speaking into your life.

It’s okay to be mad. The God of the Universe can handle your anger.

It’s ok to be sad. Our hearts need to grieve losses. We have the hope of heaven and victory over the grave, but it is a disservice to pass over a death or loss without mourning. Our soul needs time to lament.

It’s okay to dance. Move it, move it, move it!

It’s okay to skip church. God isn’t going to be mad at me if I spend Sunday morning on a run. In fact, He might speak to me in the solitude louder than if I was surrounded by a multitude of people and the cacophony of voices.

It’s okay to spend time alone. We are surrounded by technology, information, and people on a constant basis. Time spent in solitude for reflection and meditation is soul-soothing. Maybe we would go to the doctor less if we nourished our spirits with more regularity.

It’s ok to have an opinion separate from friends and family. I’m giving you permission to speak your mind. You have a whole 6 months before Thanksgiving to prepare to stand up to your Uncle Bill at the family gathering. (Wait, there is 4th of July before Thanksgiving…maybe do it then…the founding fathers would be so proud of you declaring your independence!)

It’s okay to watch movies. Not just the Christian ones, either. Watch the ones that challenge you, make you sputter in anger, evoke laughter, or cause you to weep. Then find a friend to talk about these movies with and discover the reason why you feel the way you feel.

It’s okay to REST. Turn off the phone, the tablet, the TV, the computer. Close your eyes. Go for a walk. Sit down. Don’t move so fast.

It’s okay to say something good. I’ve noticed that social media has become a place to lambaste anyone and everyone. We don’t have to gossip or spread rumors; we can talk about what we love, who we love, and what we want to be in the world. Lots of good things to say, but less and less people are saying them.

It’s okay to be yourself. No one else can do you but you. The world can wait to see the beauty, the goodness, and the creativity you will unleash on it as you evolve more into your true self.

Every day, my son, Rafael, is learning new words. The latest word he has learned is, “No.” He responds with “no” to most questions, even “Do you want some ice cream?” (Really? This kid just doesn’t know what is good!)

As much as I also have to teach him rules and tell him “no”, I’m also trying just as vigorously to teach him, “Yes.”

Because “Yes” is where the life is.

And that’s where I want to be.



One thought on “Permission Slips

  1. It sounds interesting, but its kinda hard to give up old habits. My grandmother usedto tell me: “your husband rules are law, if he says its night, its night, even if there its sunshine outside” . I never questioned my grandmother wisdom. Maybe I should, but at 60, its almost to late to rebel.

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