BENGALURU: One of the shows on Netflix I was binge-watching last week, had this line: “It is better to ask for forgiveness than asking for permission.” The way the story worked out in that particular TV series was quite a roller coaster. Nothing worked quite well, there were all sorts of confusion, hurt feelings all around and yet, finally it all worked out well enough, albeit with a couple of characters killed off and some heavy price that was paid.
It left me thinking if this particular line held true in real life, especially for people in relationships.
It is one thing for the rebellious teenager looking to jump out of the window of a first floor home to go out to a party late at night when the legal guardians are quite asleep to indulge in some not quite legal activities, and hope they won’t be found out and in the rare circumstances of someone ratting them out, to trust that their hapless and yet loving guardians will forgive them yet another trespass, perhaps with nothing more than a week of being grounded without their mobile. It might seem like the very nature of adolescence is to stretch boundaries without quite asking for permission, question the need for such permission in the first place and count on forgiveness as a given in their relationship with people at home.
Is that the same for people in a loving adult relationship? Can people take their boundaries as a flexible entity that they could play with? Should they take permission from each other for any transgressions?
Relationships are a contract of sorts, even if they aren’t always written and rarely registered as an agreement. All the people in a relationship have needs and desires, and while one expects that much of these will be fulfilled in the relationship, they may not always be satisfied. It could be as simple as a wish for a nice ghee-roast chicken with neer dosa, or a late night box of chicken kebabs, to more complicated ones like wanting to quit a high-paying corporate job to start a baking course with dreams of setting up a small home catering business, or a lot more complicated situation with complex desires and needs.
Forgiveness might be easy enough for the smaller boundary violations, just as much as permissions might be for those and yet how we negotiate where we choose to ask for permission and where we hope there will be forgiveness seem so oddly correlated. Some play around it, asking for permission for smaller things, hoping the bigger ones don’t get noticed, but that doesn’t work too well either. It is often the really big ones that we just go ahead and do, hoping for forgiveness, and that forgiveness is too difficult to get.
What if there was an alternative? What if instead of permission or forgiveness, there was a more open space to talk about desires, including those that are not easily spoken out? If we worked towards that, would it be better?
(The author is a counsellor with InnerSight)