The Thin Line Between Creepy and Charming

Yesterday I tweeted “The only difference between creepy and charming is permission.”

Some explanation is in order. No, I did not go on a date last night. No, I did not have yet another awkward encounter with a woman. But there is a story here and an interesting conclusion.

The tweet was the result of three completely unrelated things blending in my mind.

Thing 1: Barrack Obama

There has been a lot of chatter online about this photo of Obama at the G8 summit.


In light of the chatter, I have been thinking about how men ought to look at women. And, how they ought not look at women. The base forces of nature seem to war with the moral law. The specific social rules seem to vary by community. What is appropriate?

Thing 2: Girl in Parking Garage


As I left the apple store yesterday, I walked to my car in the parking garage. A young woman drove past me and as we made eye contact she unconsciously whisked her hair behind her ear. I wondered why she would do that, at that moment.

Thing 3: James Bond


Yesterday my family watched Quantum of Solice. So, as I walked through the parking garage, the movie swam through my mind.

In the movie, James Bond’s credit card gets denied at an airport. He looks deeply into the eyes of the lady at the counter who denied him the charge… and she melts. He asks “in a few moments you will get a call. Tell them I’m going to Cairo.” She smiles at him and he walks away.

Why would she melt? Why is this scene believable? Why can’t I do that?

I started adding up all the differences between me and James Bond. It was a depressing 30 minutes. Then I started eliminating the things James didn’t have to help him at the counter.

He had no gadgets, no money and no bad guys to beat up. But he still had one thing: His striking good looks and crystal blue eyes. If he had been ugly and peered into her eyes she would have looked away disgusted. I know. But James didn’t get disgust. He got permission. The woman gave him permission to look into her eyes because she wanted to look back into his.

The only difference between Bozo and Bond is permission.


So What?

You girls who are probably saying. “I could have told you that!” I know. Several of you already have on Twitter and Facebook. But to me this is a profound truth and I feel it applies to much more than just guy/girl relationships.

Gospel Permission

There is a Gospel application here. Before we can talk to someone about their soul we need their permission. Otherwise they won’t listen. Permission does not need to take long. Permission just takes tact. I find that tracts and humor can help break the ice.

But how did Jesus get permission? He healed people, raised the dead and offered hope. But, he had also something more. He could look into a man’s eyes, say “follow me” and the man would. Permission is power. Jesus’ power is supernatural. If we want permission that goes beyond gimmicks like tracts and treasure lists we need supernatural power too.

Business Permission

spamI have given Amazon permission to email me book recommendations. The emails are relevant because Amazon knows about the books I buy. If Barns & Noble were to send me an email recommending the same books I would spam it. Why? Because, Barns & Noble doesn’t have my permission to talk to me. They haven’t earned it.

If you want to grow your business you need to stop thinking of ways to spam people and start thinking of ways to earn their permission. Twitter is a good way to learn this skill. It doesn’t take much permission to send 140 characters once every other day.

Political Permission

The more I get around the more a realize that most people actually do care about politics. They just don’t care to hear about my politics. This is an important distinction. It is easy to write people off as complacent when I really just lack permission. Are people apathetic or do they just distrust both parties? A political party needs permission before it can have discourse. It must have discourse before it can sway opinion. It must sway opinion before it can win elections.

How do you get permission to influence someone’s political views?

I’m not sure. Striking good looks don’t hurt. Why else would Hollywood celebrates and Ann Coulter get such power? Humor seems to work too. I’m not sure what the answers are here. I know I often get into a political conversations on Facebook after sharing a link to a political YouTube video. What do you think?

Take Aways

  • Permission is more valuable than money.
  • Money can’t buy love, but permission is an ingredient to love.
  • Money can buy spam, but spam can’t build a relationship between you and your customer.
  • Money can’t buy votes, but permission can get attention and attention can change minds.

Thomas Umstattd Jr. is the author of Courtship in Crisis, the former head of, and co-founder of the Austin Rhetoric Club, a homeschool speech and debate club in Austin, Texas. He is a professional speaker and CEO of Author Media. He sits on the board of directors for several nonprofits, including the Texas Alliance for Life.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

16 thoughts on “The Thin Line Between Creepy and Charming

  1. Great post! Permission is the key to many things. From a different perspective, who are the people/influences we give permission to speak into our lives? And why? Now you've got me thinking…

    • before you read this have in mind that the vocabulary used in this text, is not how i usually speak 😛 just easier to use this vocabulary when explaining!

      if you keep going deeper into the behavior of people, and why we behave as we do in ceirtan situantions, you will se that it all comes down to safety and your survival instinct! your survival instinct effects every thing you do, and its all controlled by your subconscious, so most people do not see them self doing it!

      so the question you should be asking is not why we give premission to certain people to effect your life or you’r opinion, the question you should be asking is why do we NEED to give “premission”?

      i’ll tell you why, you’r brain is allways “scanning” your soroundings, like when you go into an alley it seems scary and unsafe, correct? the same prosess is being done all the time with everything including on other other people!

      so when you look at a guy and say’s he looks scary, or creepy or nice! it’s because you brains has weid all the factors of the person you are looking at, to make a hole image that you can look at and link you’r emotions to! this very big prosess is being done without you even noticing!

      the reason this is being done, as earlier said, it’s because you are allways looking for safety! like in you’r gruop of friends! why have you chosen those friends? you might say it’s because i feel comfortable around those people! when you feel comfortable you feel safe! and you are probably better friends with some in that gruop! and this goes on! you look for a safe town to live in, a safe neighborhood to buy a house, a good group of friend’s, a better friend inside the safe groud, for extra safety! and this goes on in to you subcontions for layers and layers!

      so the reason james bond can look a girls eyes and she melts, is because the james bond caracter is a calm, handsome well dressed man, takes care of he’s body, he’s hairs look’s good, and he is confident, to a woman this screams safety!

      to those who would like to say this is wrong,pleas think harder! i would like to learn something if you have something to add! but befor you add something, have in consideration that the therm “safety” is a very Simplified way of describing reason of most behavior! i could describe each topic deeper! but i just looked up the page and i have written considerably more then i originally intended! alo have in mind that this is within the subject of behavior in societies, societies meaning a big viarity of relations between humans!

  2. Great post. I particularaly liked your Gospel Analogy. An interesting undertaking: look through the gospels for instances where Jesus did or did not get permission before addressing an individual or issue.

    Off the top of my head, it seems generally Jesus only spoke into a life only after gaining a certain level of permission. The rich young ruler, for instance, asked what he must do to be saved. The crowds came to Jesus to listen to his doctrine. The women caught in adultery was saved physically before Jesus addressed her spiritual state. Etc.

    There were times of course when he didn’t get permission, as when cleansing the temple or addressing the pharisees.

    I think it would be a profitable study to take this idea and trace it through Jesus’ ministry in the Gospels…

    • This sounds reasonable at first, but if we to the book of Acts right after the Gospels we see what happened to Paul. Paul, on his way to persecute more followers of Chris was blinded and the Lord took his heart of stone and gave him a heart of flesh. So Jesus didn’t wait for Paul to give him permission to blind him and he didn’t get permission from him to restore his sight.

      • Chris –

        I understand where you are coming from. However, I would argue that Paul was already zealously seeking God, it was just not a zeal according to knowledge. We can see this Paul’s question and God’s response: “Who art thou Lord?” “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.” It took this supernatural experience for Paul to realize he had missed God in his zeal to serve God. I do not view Paul as Anti-God before his conversion, indeed he was attempting to stamp out what he viewed as heresy in order to protect the worship of God. He just needed a little help to see the “light.” (sry, pun intended).

  3. Very clever post! It is interesting how those three unrelated things struck a note that can be applied to so many different areas. I’ll have to think more about it…especially since I write lots of articles that are provocative (as in thought provoking). Some people really love it…others bear with me. One liberal guy told me that there are few people that have serious convictions different from his that want to debate with him (probably can’t *stand* to debate with him, in my opinion), so he likes to talk to me. But I’m not entirely certain if such a person has their mind open to finding out the facts, or if they are just being foolish gluttons for controversy.

    For some funny reason this also brings to my mind the story in Acts (I need to find the reference) about the fellows (I think it was more than one person) that tried to cast out a demon by invoking the names of Jesus and Paul, but the demon responded, “I know Paul, and I know Jesus, but who are you?” – the demon had no respect for them and beat them up, perhaps because they weren’t true believers who had permission to bind the devil.

    That word “uncousinly” – I don’t think I’ve seen that written out in a long time. Firefox’s spell check doesn’t even recognize it. Nice, old-fashioned sounding word.


    • The word was supposed to be “unconsciously.” I’ve fixed it now. At some point in my life I hope to write a typo free post :-\

      Thanks for the comments everyone.

      • Oh, that was a typo? At first I thought it might be, but then I looked up the word and thought I was just having an ignorant brain lapse. That’s hilarious! I must think entirely too hard…
        Once a friend of mine e-mailed a quiz to me that she filled out and under the question “What color car do you want?” she wrote, “prolly forest green”. I thought for years that “prolly forest green” was a specific color, and then my sister informed me that “prolly” is just short for “probably”.


  4. Permission is directly related to rapport. People are willing to listen to requests from people with whom they have more rapport. For better or worse, rapport is a skill that can be learned 🙂

  5. “Love is a fool’s game, where the same feelings and actions in two different situations can be brilliant and stupid, right and wrong, life-giving and sorrow-bearing, romantic and creepy. He is a hero or villain based less on his motives and more on her whims. There is no way of knowing which it will be until he is rewarded or punished for his actions. If he takes only a calculated risk, he is a coward. Would you like to play?”

  6. “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” This applies across the board in love, politics, religion, you name it. Thanks for the reminder Thomas.

  7. This was interesting, and well written but I do not agree. It was my understanding that permission comes only from God. A woman may encourage a man to look at her in a lustful way, but that man has no permission from God. If he responds immorally he will reap the consequenses of his sin. God is the ultimate authority and we answer to Him for every look, word and deed. God does not answer to us or ask our opinion. It is most important that we do not pretend God is less than all that He is, or to pretend that we are more than we are. Jesus Christ, as God, does not ask permission to heal, to save or to call men. He acts and we respond.

    Rom 12:1-3 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.

  8. Have you seen the video footage of that infamous photo of Barak supposedly ogling that young woman? If you look at the *video*, you will almost certainly get a different impression than what the *photo* implies. Check it out.
    That other man, however, the leader of a country, sorry, I forget who he is……now, HIS reaction is what you actually wanna notice.

  9. So you lack something James Bond has, do you? Whether or not you have permission depends as much on the type of woman as on the type of man. For instance, ever since I was a young girl, the quality I have been most attracted to in a man is the wisdom and ability to teach – a rare anointing indeed. Therefore James Bond’s bedroom eyes would be lost on me. But gentle, Christ-like eyes, wherein holiness and purity reside, would not.

  10. Hi Thomas,

    Nice post. It’s really important to get that permission the right way.

    Proverbs 31:30 – Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

    “Permission is more valuable than money.”
    – I agree but the sad reality is that, there are plenty of people who got the permission because they have the money.

    “Money can’t buy votes, but permission can get attention and attention can change minds.”
    – It’s nice to know that it is the case on where you’re at, it gives me hope that the Philippines will achieve it later. We still have some provinces where corrupt politicians can buy the votes, win the position and get away with their crimes.

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