[May 17, 2022] Obey the rules. Be the best at following them. Break the rules when doing so supports the central purpose of those rules.
There is an old principle in life that we should obey the rules of the game; moral rules, community morés, family customs, and laws and regulations of a judicial system. Rules are most effective at pointing to what we believe of significant value. Otherwise, why would we have rules?
Rules help create stability and predictability, improve efficiency, and build a safer place to work and play. Rules protect the weak and generate a more level playing field on the social and economic front. Be the best at following the rules; know what they are, why they exist, and why those rules function.
Find it within yourself to be an advocate and a cheerleader for rules and learn to improve upon them when reasonable, and you can muster agreement among others. This act of following rules and refining and improving rules gains respect and admiration among the many in your group.
We know the people who are carefully and expertly following the rules. These are the folks who are leaders and successful in our community, at church, in school, at the workplace, and on the field of sports. We find them admirable and look to them as models of virtue. We copy their rule-following, and who does not want to be the person who is upheld in the highest esteem by others? We see people who follow the rules diligently as examples of decency and admiration.
Rule following is also a form of communication. It tells us what is essential and of value; recklessness versus safety, bad manners versus good, immoral behavior versus honesty. Follow the rules and be the best at following them. You will be content in doing so, and you will be an upstanding member of your community.
But, there are times to break the rules.
True enough, we are suspicious of those who are drone-like in their subservience to rules as the highest of their moral virtues. Rigid adherence to rules shows a lack of creativity, flexibility, and intellect.
Rules exist within a pecking order of rules, like the rules of playing a single baseball game, to be contrasted with the rules of the baseball season. The latter, what we can call meta-rules (or rules about rules), embodies the central core of the game’s purpose. These meta-rules represent a higher-order principle that overlays all other rules.
They say, for example, in baseball that you can win all the [individual] games but still lose the season victory pennant. Know the meta-rules. To know them requires a higher level of awareness and an expansion of your personality. We all can implicitly understand this; even children appreciate it. Kids know that if they win all the games, other children will stop playing with them. The meta-rule is ‘play the game.’
Follow the rules, understand the rules, and be an advocate for the rules. Do so except when following them means disregarding or ignoring higher principles the rules are meant to enforce. Follow the rules, except when doing so undermines the central purpose of those same rules.
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