We know that rules helps us drive a car, live an orderly legal life, and reduce the short-term thinking that some people demonstrate. We also know that rules limit peoples creativity, reduce their enjoyment of life, and start an unhelpful over intellectualized view of life.
Rules attempt to codify how we should treat others in the absence of positive intensions toward others. When people are indifferent or hostile to others, then rules become very important to regulate behavior. There are the most rules where people seem the least able to regulate their own behavior such as mental wards or prisons. So rules seem to be a fall back or attempt to guide when people don’t recognize our shared humanity and lives.
Rules are important when people don’t have respect and love towards each other. Maybe we don’t have to love each other, but to me, love is also kindness and patience and giving people room to be themselves. I have always been wary of people who seek to put rules on others. Let me give you an example. I had a girlfriend once who was a different religion than me. No problem I am open minded about religions. She said after a few months of dating that if we were going to continue in our relationship I would need to change to her religion. I didn’t believe in her religion and even though I cared for her, I had to tell her I would not change. I don’t want a love that seeks to change me but one that can accept me for who I am.
Rules while good intentioned like that woman’s attempt to “save my soul” ultimately can’t be as effective as respect, kindness, patience and love. I think that rules are those things that we tell children because they may not fully understand and be able to apply the general principles of kindness and love. Yet some children do seem able to not only apply those principles of kindness and love, but to be shining examples of them. I was told that as a child I would “give the shirt off my back to anyone” and that is still true. I love to share what I have with others, which is part of the reason that I have this blog. This article is not to glorify me however, many children have those fine qualities, but rather to give an example that children have their own kind of wisdom as well.
Rules seem to be to be a stepping stone to kindness, respect and patience with each other. Breaking the rules seems entirely appropriate and necessary when an action is not kind, respectful or patient. For example, when someone makes fun of someone who has a weight issue you should not laugh and encourage that cruel behavior. You should call them out for being a jerk in the most kind and insightful way possible. The goal is to eliminate that behavior around us and not to make the person feel bad. We make mistakes and sometimes other people can help us see the error of our ways.