We follow many, bend a few, flout those that rub us the wrong way, and break those that we find unfair altogether. They come in all shapes and sizes. Some unwritten, unspoken, others codified in codes of contact or law.

To not follow or break them risks everything from our own guilt, to admonishment from our peers to loss of freedom or finances.

On the other hand the rejection of others can reap the rewards of freedom, independence, gains in time or treasure, even admiration of those who admire the rebellion.

By definition, a rule is “an accepted principle or instruction that states the way things are or should be done, and tells you what you are allowed or are not allowed to do.”

The operative word is “accepted,” Increasingly in almost all facets of life, I see people choosing to accept certain rules while rejecting others.

For example, I often speed on the highway. Breaking the official rule of the speed limit while accepting the unwritten rule that you’re ok as long as you’re within ten miles of that limit.

Others may choose never to use their turn signal or delay merging onto an exit until the last possible minute when they wedge themselves in, cutting the line others have patiently waited in.

Many people share their Netflix password with family and friends. Even more use their phones when and where they know they are not supposed to.

Children stay up past their bedtimes, don’t look both ways before crossing the road, maybe use their computer on a test when they aren’t supposed to.

I find it fascinating how easy it is to become irate when others don’t abide by rules that we think everyone should follow while at the same time we, ourselves, dismiss other rules altogether. This is, by definition, hypocrisy.

We’re seeing this play out in campuses across the country.

Many feel Universities’ investments break a moral code. Some students break codes of conduct related to hate speech. Others may cross the line in how or where they choose to assemble or protest. A few break the law as it relates to destruction of property. The University responds by breaking the unwritten rule of inviting police on campus to intervene. Some police then break the rules around using excessive force.

It’s impossible to have a fully functioning group of people whether it be a University, family, team, organization, business, or country, when the members of that group don’t accept the same set of rules or at the very least acknowledge what is being broken.

When one breaks or bends a rule, there is often some justification, at least in our own mind. It is a means for addressing the cognitive dissonance of believing that what we are doing is right while also knowing that there is something not quite right about it at the same time.

When speeding, I tell myself that everyone else is doing it or that the speed limits in other countries are much higher or that I’m an experienced driver who can handle the increased speed.

Years ago, I was pulled over for speeding on our way to the beach. The policeman asked me two questions: “How fast were you going?”  and “Are those your three little kids in the back?” My answers were “80” and “Yes.” He then put his ticket pad away. But before I could feel any self-satisfaction with escaping punishment, he turned and said, “Is getting there quicker worth risking their lives?

Before we break, bend, or flout any rule, we would be well served to think really deeply about who might be hurt as a result and ask ourselves the same question, “Is this worth it?”

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