Pop Quiz. What is the definition of impunity?

“You can lie to a building; you cannot lie to a person with impunity.” Ravi Zacharias

“Alone, we cannot face ‘the mystery of iniquity’ with impunity. Only Christ can overcome the powers of evil. Only in and through him can we survive the trials of our solitude.” Henry Nouwen

These quotes were read the same day from two different books. The word ‘impunity’ stuck out because I have never read the word impunity before. I did not know what it meant. I keyed it into my Word program, highlighted it, and looked it up.

Impunity: Exemption from punishment, harm, or recrimination.

Recrimination: An accusation made against somebody who has brought a previous accusation.

I have read or heard, however, the word impudence before. Must likely I heard it in a movie, set in an 1800’s time-frame in England. The word impunity isn’t heard in conversations with the local present day crowd, unless one is a lawyer or a judge or something of that nature. Yet the concept of impunity is woven throughout our culture and beyond.

Really, who wouldn’t want to claim impudence? Honestly, when I make a bad decision, either premeditated or thoughtless, my wish is to not suffer any consequences. I drift toward impunity. Who wouldn’t?

My wife and I have a houseful of children. I wonder if some of them took a seminar on how to garner impunity. They are experts at turning on tears, deflecting, finger pointing, changing the conversation, and I get ‘played’ quite often. But Barbara, my wife and in-house prosecutor is well read. Crime And Punishment you will find tucked nicely under her pillow. She, bless her, has had a ‘head-tilt arms-on-hips’ response for me when I try my ‘lawyer’ on with the children. All she has to say is ‘Gerald!’ and I know I missed it again. She then steps in and I listen and learn as she prosecutes and doles out the sentence. She doesn’t flinch when they say sympathetically “I didn’t mean it, I didn’t mean kick him in the shins.” I am sure any mother reading this is nodding in agreement and the fathers are grunting and scratching their scalps.

I have been meditating on a passage of scripture in which a woman was brought to Jesus. She was accused of adultery, caught in the very act, and the religious high-brows brought her to trap Jesus. Read it in the beginning of chapter eight of the gospel of John. If there was anyone who had the authority to grant impunity it was Jesus, especially because no recriminations could be tossed his way. Impunity was granted to all in the scene. The woman and the high-brows walked away impudent.

Thanks for listening as I wrap my brain around a newly learned word.

Bonus phrase for parents: “Be careful not to point a finger at others, because three are pointing back at you.” My Wife (An oft used phrase she learned as a child.)

Challenge: Try to use the word impunity or impudence in a sentence today.

2 thoughts on “Pop Quiz. What is the definition of impunity?

  1. Speaking of impunity, whatever happened to the man who was committing adultery with the woman? Doesn’t it take two? I think the men back then (and many today) think they can do the deed with impunity. There, I used the word in a sentence (lol).

Thanks for your time and thoughts.

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