There are times in life when someone or something strikes a chord in you, giving you “permission” to be more authentic. In the midst of everyday life there is suddenly an “aha” moment—if they can do that so can I! Learning that someone else is free of something that we fear or feel guilty over allows us to let our own fear go, giving us “permission” to not let it control us anymore.

For example, when my children were young I felt guilty if I wasn’t volunteering for everything—the PTO, the girl scouts, working in the church nursery, helping at school—and in a busy life with three small children I struggled to say no, that is, until I read in a time-management book that basically said, “The organization will not shut down because you say no, they’ll just go find someone else to do the job. Your time is valuable and there will never stop being good causes that want your time, but don’t worry, they’ll make it fine without you.” It set me free to say no. I’m not saying that I never again volunteered for anything, but now I choose wisely, otherwise I’m not walking in God’s plan for my time, I’m merely walking in guilt and man’s plan. Good isn’t always right.

We get caught up in what others think of us (and I’m a big one for caring about that), yet every now and then something comes along that changes us, giving us permission to be ourselves.

Here’s another example. I grew up believing that getting a massage was “new age” (it didn’t help that it was always done in places surrounded by a focus on meditation, Buddhism, and Zen), plus “nice” girls didn’t do that. Then my good friend Nan, a strong and passionate Christian, felt God leading her to get her massage license, so she carried God’s glory into the classes, learning the techniques and materials as she walked with Holy Spirit, asking him as she learned which was science and which was mysticism. I was fascinated by every step of her journey. She’s been a massage therapist for years now, ministering Jesus’ love as she works. Nan dared to challenge the religious thinking of the time and her boldness changed my perspective of massage. It takes a courageous person to follow God’s leading in the face of controversy, but her actions gave me permission to be freer in my beliefs.

Recently a small book of cartoons has given me permission to be truer to who I am. I’ve always known I was an introvert, but after being married to a leader for thirty-six years I’ve learned how to fake it well, and I can speak before a group or hold my own at a social event and no one can tell that it’s not a comfortable place for me. Over time I’ve gotten braver at backing out of the social limelight, thanks to my friend Karen, who after several invitations to hang out as a group, got tired of my excuses and said, “Brenda, instead of making up excuses, why don’t you just say no, that you don’t like social groups, and I’ll stop inviting you.” Whoa!!! She’s helped me learn to be braver about saying no, but it took this book to open my eyes to how much of an introvert I really am.

A while back my nephew posted a cartoon on my Facebook page from the book Introvert Doodles, saying that it reminded him of me. I bought the book and it has opened my eyes to aspects of myself that I didn’t realize were because I am such an introvert. It has given me “permission” to be myself.

I give you permission to hug a tree.

However, here’s another way to look at it—YOU can be someone else’s “permission” to change. When they see that you’re not walking in fear of what other’s think, they become brave enough to change. While we all have areas where we need more freedom, there are also places where we’re free and we can give others the courage to be bolder in who they are.

God wants us to live our daily lives helping others to become more of who he created them to be—focusing on his direction and opening our minds to what he thinks of things, not walking in religion, man’s rules, or fear of what others think of us. Instead, we can see where God is leading us and what he’s saying about it.

What is your life giving others “permission” to do?