Give Yourself Permission – Part II (The thing about it is…)

Give Yourself Permission

The other night over dinner, our family had a conversation about other things (riffing off my last post) people might consider giving themselves permission for.

I explained that these would be things people do or don’t do because of some unnecessary pressure. I asked them to think deeply about something they might suggest people give themselves permission for.

“Fart” and “poo in public” came out of the mouths of certain members of the family. They had a good long belly laugh about this while I waited, arms crossed.

“Family, please. We can do better than this.”

Secretly, I agreed that they should give themselves permission to do these things, but I certainly wasn’t going to.

Which is a good reminder that considering decorum is part of the task. It is important to give yourself permission with regard to how it might affect others. It should not be the exclusion of others’ peace and frame of mind.

If you are a person who is highly relational, giving yourself permission can be a difficult task. Women inherently struggle with this – which is why we do too much all the time.

Giving yourself permission should be necessarily thoughtful, but, ideally, it should give you a freedom that then promotes freedom in others.

Giving yourself permission is about delineating false guilt from real responsibility.

The fam finally came up with one serious submission: Give yourself permission to fail.

Thank you, family, for the fodder on the dinner table and for my blog. I’m proud of you again. Go back to the events of your day.

When we start a new journey or take the step of pursuing our vision of where we believe we should be, we never do this alone. We drag people into it with us. Start a new business, you need customers. Start a new ministry, you need volunteers. Become a missionary, you need supporters. It is your supporters, volunteers and customers that feel like a responsibility, what keeps you tied to your vision, even when the tide changes.

There is a time to let go. Often those people we’ve brought with us are the barometer of our success. Their joining us gives us wings; their leaving deflates us.  They are most often the reason we won’t let ourselves fail (even when the barometer is speaking loudly that you’re already headed there.)

Reconsider that you are accountable to your followers, not responsible for them. There is a difference. As I see it, responsibility means your efforts are about controlling others; accountability means your efforts are about benefitting others.

Yes, it is important that you put your money where your mouth is. You must consider who you are leading and to where you are leading them. But when it isn’t working out – or it has worked out and now it’s not – there is a time to give yourself permission to stop and learn the lessons that have come from your attempts.

Our true responsibility is to listen well.

This is the beauty of faith in Christ. Believers don’t have to continually assess the risks and benefits when we follow him in simple obedience. Our striving is only to hear from the Holy Spirit. He carries the burden and ours is light. When his voice is loudest, the weight is lifted and our failures (every last one of them) are redeemed.

Our failures can actually clarify our vision; we see purpose beyond the success of our dreams. Our ultimate goal is his will realized, because he makes beautiful things out of dust.

The vision was never just for you; the lesson wasn’t either.

This might be time for a new vision, that says to others, “learn something incredibly valuable from my mistakes.”


I’ve known pure and utter failure. I have discovered that devastating defeat is almost always a disguise for good and necessary change . On the other end of it, having moved past failure in many forms, I no longer fear it, but embrace the lessons that come with it. Those lessons are: pray to the Father, reach out to Jesus, listen to the Spirit, walk humbly, and take others with you, through the failures too.

Others may perceive the Spirit’s whisperings in your ear, the result of his guidance, to be failures, but know that he is taking you on a path of rich experience and joy that will bring you to a place of deep gratitude and worship. 

Give yourself permission to fail. And some time after that, give yourself permission to celebrate your failures.

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Let’s start with Gary Thomas

I recently had the opportunity to present a workshop to a women’s group based on Gary Thomas‘ book, Sacred Pathways.  Have you heard about this book? Really? Have I not talked your ear off about it?

OK, so the premise of the book is that, in the same way that we have personality types and spiritual gifts, there are worship temperaments that help us relate to God and understand how to love him with our heart, soul, mind and strength.  What I love even more than the freedom this book gives us to explore our own “worship styles” (and we’re not talking music here, we’re talking about how we study, pray, spend time with God) is being able to understand others and how THEY relate to God.  Heaven forbid – seriously, Heaven, strike me down should I suppress the worship of God by another. And yet… and yet, this is the tragic tale of many who have either been discouraged by others to worship freely or have pointed the finger and diminished someone else’s worship. Continue reading

7, again

I picked up a book today I didn’t want to love.  It had been recommended to me by a friend some time ago called 7, by Jen Hatmaker.  I was babysitting my nephews and saw it on my sister-in-law’s table.  She’d just finished it and yes, I could borrow it.  Which she never would have agreed to had she known I’d spend most of the day neglecting her sweet cherubs because of it.

The premise of the book is, well, let me just copy and paste from Jen’s website:

7 is the true story of how Jen (along with her husband and her children to varying degrees) took seven months, identified seven areas of excess, and made seven simple choices to fight back against the modern-day diseases of greed, materialism, and overindulgence. In the spirit of a fast, they pursued a deeply reduced life in order to find a greatly increased God.

Based on that description, you might agree that it’s a book to be avoided.  It might stir something up, something I’ve been really good at burying.

You see, I’ve done this 7 thing before, where you challenge your choices through the lens of the gospel.  I’ve fasted and I’ve lived a life in the spirit of a fast.  When you live by the message of Jesus, to surrender everything to follow him, it can will force you to make huge changes in your life.  My family was shaken and, as Jen refers to it, messed up by the challenge.  At that time in our life, we were personally convicted to sell everything we owned to do cross-cultural work in Ghana.

For the sake of full disclosure we did not sell our red couch, chair and ottoman, most of our books and, strangely, a bread basket.  These remaining possessions were distributed among our friends most likely to return them.   For the sake of over-sharing, I’m sitting on the red couch as I write and we just used the bread basket at supper.

Otherwise, we were shaken to the core.

You would think that when you experience such life-changing conviction that your life would STAY CHANGED.  I would like to believe that you cannot return to the person you were. The Spirit wouldn’t let you, would he?!  Haven’t we been freed?  But as I read through the pages of 7, when I hear how Jen’s fasting from excess opened her eyes and heart to others’ needs, I am troubled by my recurring blindness. I see how I have placed a sheathing over the eyes of my heart.  I’m hoping it isn’t as thick as it was before, but it has effectively confined my compassion.

There’s a crack in that “protective covering” as I have been deeply affected by chapters 1-6 of this book, read today in one sitting, held in one hand while pretending to play Thomas the Train with the other.  I was distracted, recalling what can happen when you feel like this…

Having done this before, there are justifications I’ve since made that need to be overcome.  I remember treating our house in Ghana like a dorm room.  Zero excess.  No decor, no extras, not even curtains on the windows.  I never thought I was saving the world because of it, but I did it out of respect for those outside my door without homes.  Then my Ghanaian friends told me to settle in already.  It made them uneasy that I wasn’t making my house a home, that maybe I wasn’t committed to ministering there.  This actually caused me to re-evaluate my thinking.  Did this mean I didn’t have to go without in order to serve others?

As silly as it seemed when my Ghanaian friend told me to put up curtains in my windows, I realized that they didn’t want me to suffer needlessly.  They wouldn’t live without given the choice, why would I?  Since those convictions were thrown into question, I was thrown for a loop, and the pendulum swung the other way.

It’s been 4 years since we moved back to Canada.  The first 6 months were spent in shock, so let’s say 3 1/2 years.  Still, I’m surprised at how quickly my old habits came back.  How I bristle at interruption – a phone call or knock on the door –  instead of seeing each moment as God weaving our lives into the fabric of his will.  How I turn first to retail or snack therapy, instead of prayer, to help me out of emotional crisis.  How I want to set up policies and procedures to fix problems instead of recognizing the unique way the Spirit moves in every situation.  How I long for approval from other people.  I fit prayers in here and there instead of first and foremost. I worry instead of trust…

My Dad said the most benevolent thing to me when I discussed this tension within me.  First he quoted Romans 7:15, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do,” which is probably the most empathetic verse that Paul wrote.  Then my Dad added, “But Loreli, cosmically, you are not the same person, even if you have the same struggles.”  He reminded me that the circumstances of my life have changed because of the work of the Spirit.   Despite my failures, my desire to walk close to Jesus remains the same.  The fact that there is even tension within me is the work of the Spirit.  I can’t go back.  I won’t.

The tricky part is moving forward.


Read the book. Even if you really don’t want to.