We are a society that is in love with RULES. But Rules are not good things.
It’s better to have Guidelines, rather than Rules. Because circumstances dictate the decisions when you have guidelines, but Rules dictate decisions when you have Rules.
People don’t have to think much if they live by rules. They merely have to reference The Rule. Then apply it without regard to whether it will make things better or achieve the stated goal. Its The Rule.
Guidelines give us a starting point. They are a place to build from. But they can be ditched when the situation doesn’t fit.
Religions, of course, are the stars of Rules Based Living. But governments are also full of Rules, generally called Laws, often called Regulations. And corporations have many rules. They give you a handbook when you start at most companies – and it’s full of the Rules.
The intention of the rules is usually good. To get people to consistently act in a manner that benefits the most people. They are considered a way to make sure things are fair. If you have a rule and you apply it consistently no one can complain, so the theory goes.
But of course we all know of situations where that old saw was brought out on display because the rule was applied and left an appalling mess in its wake. Where it felt deeply unfair and the only fair thing about it was the fact that it has always been consistently applied to other people as well.
But think about that. Why does the fact that it was an equally distributed application of the rule make the injustice of it any less wrong?
The reason we like Rules is because they are simpler than making choices based on complex and changing situations . It’s easy to explain, it’s easy to defend, it’s easy to follow.
Humans seem to be born feeling a sort of scarcity and we are constantly looking to find some justice and equity in this life. So we cling to these Rules as though this will provide for the Equity.
But it doesn’t. It never has. Because the rules can never be fair to the individual. They can only hope for consistency. They are static and monolithic and they are being applied to complex problems. And they end up like a sledgehammer on a Tiffany Window because it’s hot in the church. Nothing of value is left but the heat problem became a window problem and it was supposedly destroyed. Except another window can be built. And eventually will be. And the church will be hot again.
Rules do not fix problems. They merely hit whatever is in front of them. A guideline might also lead to hitting what is in front of it, but it allows for the possibility that the problem is not the immediate thing in front of you. It allows for possibility of a complex issue that might be better solved by opening another window, or opening the door, or going outside, or putting in air conditioning.
Guidelines are places where we start to think. To recognize the situation in all its complexity and its far reaching solutions. To allow kindness and compassion and the best of the human spirit to live. Rules are where all those things go to die.