Is Stealing, Purloining, Filching, Lifting, Pinching Or Swiping Ever Justified?

Justified Stealing?? Liv Tyler kissing mother Bebe Buell at film premiere of her “Stealing Beauty” June 11, 1996

***Special note: As some of my regular readers might have noticed, I did not publish a post last Thursday. This is the first time I have missed my self-imposed schedule of publishing every Monday and Thursday for over four months. This post provides, indirectly, why I missed last Thursday.


“The robb’d that smiles, steals something from the thief”  :-)

-William Shakespeare

(1) Did you ever steal, purloin, filch, lift, pinch or swipe something?

(2) Since steal, purloin, filch, lift, pinch and swipe are synonyms, do they have the same meaning?

(3) Is stealing, purloining, filching, lifting, pinching or swiping ever justified?

This Cowboy might purloin you! :-)

The purpose for the previous three questions is to encourage your mind to think about something that recently happened to me. Yes, you guessed it, we (my wife and I) were robbed. Our house was broken into, while we were gone, and some “stuff” is missing. For reasons related to the investigation, I will not be specific in this post regarding the break-in and what was taken, but I will try to be specific regarding my feelings about it. And, as usual, I will use this as a “writing for learning” exercise.

Referring back to the three questions at the beginning of this post, the answer to the first question is yes, the second question is no, and the last question is maybe. At least, that is what I think. I am not basing this on anything other than my own thinking, feelings and values.

You see, I think that everyone, at least once in her/his life, has been involved in some kind of theft. Most people have at least filched: stolen something of little value. Ok, I’ll admit to you the reader that I have filched at least once in my life. :-( I’m not proud of making that statement, but in the spirit of being truthful I must make it. Please understand that I am not saying that since I only filched, it’s ok. It isn’t – period.

I suppose you are ONLY going to filch me!

I sincerely believe that everyone should strive to not steal. Having stated that, I realize there are circumstances where it seems like the right thing to do. For example, stealing food from someone who has much in order to feed a starving baby can seem justified and the right thing to do.

What about the other synonyms? First let me explain each. As mentioned before, “to filch” means stealing something of little value. “To purloin” means to make off with something, often in a breach of trust: he purloined the key to his uncle’s safe-deposit box. “To swipe” usually means quick and furtive snatching or seizing: he swiped a necklace from the counter. “To lift” is to take something surreptitiously and keep it for oneself: a pickpocket lifted a wallet from the back pocket of a person on the bus. “To pinch” means to take something by or as if picking it up between the thumb and the fingers: the boy pinched a ten-dollar bill from his mother’s purse. “To steal” is the most general word used for taking something that isn’t yours and it usually implies severe wrong-doing. Therefore, the answer to my second question, “Since steal, purloin, filch, lift, pinch and swipe are synonyms, do they have the same meaning?” is no!

I’ll lift this to find who “lifted” them.

My last question, “Is stealing, purloining, filching, lifting, pinching or swiping ever justified?” is difficult. As mentioned before, it is easy to dream up cases where stealing can be justified. To feed a starving baby or to escape from a life-threatening situation might be examples where stealing can be “justified.” I put the word justified in quotes because I’m unsure if stealing and justified should be legitimately connected. The reason I’m unsure is due to how I feel as a victim of the act of stealing. As a victim, I can’t justify it. But, as the feeling of being victimized decreases over time, I’m sure I’ll have a different point of view and most likely, better understand how stealing can sometimes be justified. I just don’t know at this time. What do you think?

“A person who steals bread during a famine is not treated as a thief.”

-Yusuf Islam

“All stealing is comparative. If you come to absolutes, pray who does not steal?”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

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