Lesson 23: It is better to ask for forgiveness than permission, most of the time

There are many principles that this lesson will tie into.  There are times in life when you must take a risk, roll the dice, and hope that they land in your favor.  Things don’t always go according to plan.  There will come many times where you are put into a position to make choices where either there is no good option, or the wrong option has dire consequences.  The military may be an organization with a seemingly rigid structure and unbreakable chain of command, but that is not always the case.  You are responsible for your actions, orders or not, and you are the one that will likely face the consequences.  This is doubly true if the consequences are negative.

Even the military brotherhood/sisterhood is not always the safety net that it seems.  People are people, regardless of organization, and no one wants to pay for the mistakes of others, no matter how close you are.  Fortunately, for most members, order following, and decision making don’t have a habit of being continuously complex.  Often, the right choices are easy to spot.  They may not always adhere to the letter of the law or the rules and regulations as they are written, but most leaders (the good ones) can read between the lines.  It is important to understand the rules as they are written, but it is more important to grasp the rules as they were intended.  Laws, in my opinion, were designed mainly to combat malicious intent.  Sure, sometimes a crime may be committed by and idiotic mistake or in a moment of stupidity and/or misunderstanding.  In reality, the law’s intent is corrective and preventive action.  What do I mean?  Please allow me to introduce my favorite example.

Imagine you are a patrolman operating a speed trap.  The speed limit is 45 MPH, but you clock a car going by at 55 MPH.  You pull them over and make your approach.  In the back, you see a pregnant woman lying across the backseat with no seatbelt on that is screaming.  You learn that the husband is rushing his wife to the hospital because her water broke, and the baby is on its way.  The driver has no criminal history.  Not even a ticket.  What do you do?  The letter of the law states they were speeding, she is not properly or safely seated in the vehicle, and she is not wearing a seatbelt.  These are offenses that warrant the issuing of tickets.  To issue these tickets, it takes time to fill them out with the proper information.  While filling these out, the woman continues to scream and suffer the intense pain that accompanies childbirth.  According to the letter of the law, that is what is supposed to happen.  Does that sound right?  Does that sound fair?  Does that sound like the reason those laws were written in the first place?

I can tell you this, I don’t know many police officers that would have engaged in that specific course of action.  The most immediate concern would be the woman’s health and safety.  Distance to the hospital would also be taken to account.  If it’s too far, call paramedics, if its close, tell the driver to slow it down but to get going to the hospital immediately.  Personally, had I encountered that situation, I would ignore tickets, provided whatever aid possible, and an escort to the hospital.  Any true leader would understand that the laws as they are written do not take unknown variables into account.  They also don’t take into account that time is not always on your side when making these quick decisions in the field, so you need to trust your instincts.  It helps if your moral compass is pointing in the right direction and other people know it.

This is an extreme and pretty specific example, but the point is that throughout life, you wont always be operating on the assumption that you have permission.  Whether time is a factor, you are willing to gamble on the outcome, or the reward for success far outweighs the consequences and risk of failure, getting permission isn’t always the best or most efficient route.  At the end of the day, the consequences will likely be your burden so you must make the decision on whether it is a choice you can live with.  The easiest way is to make decisions beforehand on what makes you comfortable and what constitutes crossing a line you are unwilling to cross.  Also, you need to understand that your choices will likely impact others so are these impacts that you are wanting to have on the people in your world.


One Reply to “Lesson 23: It is better to ask for forgiveness than permission, most of the time”

  1. 💜 As Ever Totally Agreed Matty G; in British “Military” parlance…very good, carry on; very well done old boy


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