Are rules in general meant to be questioned, followed, bent or broken?
For example, when I worked in the health care field for persons with developmental disabilities, state regulations put such pressure on the agency that some things went very out of balance. The agency had great fear of being shut down and made decisions which did not consider the whole picture There was a bright young man in the agency with whom I disputed the blind following of agency policy. His comment, "Rules are rules" shook me. Is it standard practice that people follow rules without thinking for themselves?
Questioned, morphed, and followed. There are a lot of rules that are not explained and some managers expect us to go on their word as if they are entirely trustworthy. It's a difficult situation, but one that I found myself set up in many times. Luckily, my boss now loves questions and information. Any question is now welcome.
I like that - questioned, morphed and followed. Marvelous that your boss has come to love questions and information. Sounds like that person's awareness has expanded and by morphing rules stagnation is replaced by evolution.
Yay for open-minded bosses! Excellent that you were able to convert her/him! (And, it sounds like, no more "kill the messenger".)
As you are talking about "rules" imposed by a human authority, I see it this way. The ethical action is the one that does no harm and offers the most good. Rules are generally intended to guide toward this action, but often fail. Social structures that use punishment tend to create rigid and unthinking obedience.
But we are responsible for our actions, whether we "follow the rules" or not. The rules simply limit our options and change the consequences. For example, there is a company that provides cleaning ladies. These women are underpaid. Company rules say that they are not allowed to eat, or even to drink water, provided by the customer. My choices are: Use this company, and let a woman go hungry and thirsty while working in my house; use the company, care for the woman, and risk that she will lose her job; not use the company. The sane, compassionate act of feeding the poor who come to my home is forbidden, and could actually make the situation worse. The rules, intended to prevent favoritism and conflict among employees and embarrassing situations where cleaning women come to expect to be fed, prevent compassionate action.
The world is full of such cases. Awareness and skillful action, and looking for "the third option" (thinking outside the box) are called for.
Totally agree. Awareness, skillful actions, and thinking outside the box are called for. Sometimes courage, too.
Resplendent insight. This and the question has inspired a hub. Hopefully and prayerfully, I'll have it published soon. I also agree that it does require courage in responding to some of the more obscure and dubious rules.
Thank you, Emanate &Unabridged. This responsibility absoultely calls on tremendous courage. I am often challenged by the fact that I find that there is no solution & I must step away from an opportunity for ethical reasons. Unab- pls post yr
Sid, I have had an additional thought on the cleaning women case. Have you found a third option? If not, would you like to hear the thought, privately between us?
It's standard practice for a whole lot people.
I think whether rules are meant to be followed, questioned, etc. can depend on the rules and circumstances. In general, if the rules are related to something like policy in government and/or the workplace, I think (no, know) that there's less room for not following them than if the rules are something like "rules to live by" in one's personal life. The trouble with government agencies is that employees are not given the power to even question rules because the rules are established through a system that doesn't leave room for flexibility. It's built in, I suppose, to reduce the risk of fraud in day-to-day/case-to-case doings. Some rules wouldn't even be established if something wasn't built in to alleviate worries about fraudulence and taxpayer waste. I, personally, think someone needs to figure out a way to build in some way for people to address issues of individual circumstances and/or questions of rules.
What bothers me more than that kind of thing, though, is that so many people learn all the "rules to live by" that are generally good rules/personal policies when they're young; and they'll stick with following those rules they learned when living life was almost all-future and therefore, all-theory, because they were kids or newly "minted" adults. It is living and/or life experiences from which we learn as adults, and through which we discover that one-size-fits-all-rules-to-live-by don't always work when we're smart enough to be open to, and to try to understand, that life and the world and other people have much to teach to us; and limiting our ability to think for ourselves by sticking like robots to rules we learned, or figured out, as kids (or young adults) can mean not growing past the thinking of a "know-all-the-answers" twenty-year-old. Maybe the problem with all the people who do this kind of thing is that they were raised to believe there are a set of rules to live by, and that following them is the only way to live. Maybe too many people just weren't encourage to think for themselves and/or to question things (including rules). Kids who please parents by following all the rules get positive feedback from parents who don't want independent thinkers and who are afraid of any rule-bending or questioning. People who can't think for themselves very well get nervous when there's not a simple set of rules that tells them how to live and how to think.
Basically, there's no one rule about what we should do about rules. (and all this comes from a person who generally has no problem whatsoever following reasonable rules)
I personally believe that rules are made to be followed, but questioned if they seem "wrong" and changed through proper channels--unless it is a case of life or death or something equally dire that must be dealt with instantly.
However, most people I know say that they believe that rules in general ARE meant to be bent or broken without question or going through appropriate channels--that they're just "guidelines". Examples of such "guidelines" include traffic laws (especially speed limits and use of turn signals and safety belts), marriage vows, dress codes, smoking regulations/prohibitions in some areas (theatres, schools, hospitals, etc.), weapon-carrying prohibitions in some areas, hunting and fishing laws (that limit the number and type of game one can bring home), curfews, standardized test requirements on not cheating.... I'm out of breath, but the list goes on. (And I can't wait to read what others wrote).
Once again you provide a provocative angle of perspective. At least I had not considered the angle of how frequently the guidelines that have value and purpose in society, to protect it and enable individuals to thrive, are ignored. Good points!
Thanks again, E.P.! Another reason I generally follow rules is that somebody(ies) took the time to think about a problem, thought out what to do about it, and made the rule/law/guideline. As you say, they generally protect and help people thrive.
Rules being questioned to UNDERSTAND what they mean, but no: rules were originally created and intended to govern land and living, which involved respect and consideration for others and to create balance and safety. It seems now, though, that authority figures use them to take advantage of people and harass them. Example: I once thought that if you wore a badge that you of all people had to obey the laws and rules, since those who wear the badge should set a model example with how they behave; you know, show us how it's done? But police had sped, ran stop signs and red lights, and used their badge to "cheese it" for the last 30 years at least. Rules in some places at least now seem more leaned towards the satisfaction and benefit of those who made them, and not to include everyone else. But maybe in some cases that's a good thing.
Then there's always the one who gets away with murder while everyone else has to play by the rules.
In Holland we cycle a lot. Often you come to a red light and there's no-one around. The rule is to wait for green, which no sane cyclist does - unless there's a policeman close by.
Rules are there for guidance and structure, but they are normally created through general consensus. But they must always be questioned in order to understand them. And we are free to bend them, break them or ignore them completely if we deem then unreasonable - as long as we accept the consequences of our actions.
Following rules blindly is giving up your democratic rights (which can also be seen as rules), putting others in a position of dictatorship.
Even our own rules - which we call values - are not written in stone, and should also be questioned, if we wish to understand ourselves thoroughly - and then bent or broken, if we wish to grow.
No doubt "Rules are rules" but it is doubtful that rules can be followed religiously. We have to deviate from the rules as per circumstances as we do have commonsense also. I have broken the rules and found that new rules came into being after having been broken.
As a child it is useful to obey. As we grow older we should question but obedience should never be blind. One should also be flexible and not narrow. Expansion is life contraction is death. Always desist from that which makes you weak; move towards the Light and away from darkness.
Wow! Awesome answer. I can't even figure out what to say that doesn't sound stupid. I'll parrot E.P.'s comment: Beautiful and Thumbs Up.
Thank you both, EP and LS. Higher blessings.
I think that rules need to be 'tested' - Do they make sense and do they create a good structure or process for doing things? I don't think that rules should be challenged just for the sake of doing so, but I do think that where they don't make sense, it's good to question them and suggest changes where those changes are of benefit.
I like your last, '..question and suggest changes.' I once heard of a stoplight in a middle-of-nowhere desert. Stupid? No. The bright sunlight made drivers unable to see cross-traffic and many accidents occurred there before the light was installed.
Rules are there as guidelines and in many cases as part of health and safety. But we do need to always monitor that the rules put in place are effective.
Everything in life is in constant change and rules need to be adapted to follow suit. Keeping rules without reviewing them and leaving them to become outdated and stagnant makes them pointless - perhaps in some circumstances even dangerous. So in some cases yes, I would say that rules need to be questioned, bent or even broken if it means keeping people safer or alleviating suffering.
There are some folks that get off on being a rule freak and sticking to them in orginal format no matter what the cost is - they are usually very silly people with no vision and an inability to adapt. The scary thing is, that a few of these twats are in responsible positions and cause havoc!!
My personal thought is, that if a rule is no longer applicable it should generate questions and opposition. The indigenous people who were here when the Europeans arrived, taught their children to question authority. This was and is 180 degrees opposite to the European model, which is blind obedience.
That is an interesting point, platinumOwl. Didn't know about it. I have just published a hub which includes reference to an indigenous people in Idaho, who called themselves People of the Sun. The hub is 'Return to the River of No Return.'
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