“I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.”
This has to be one of my favorite quotes of all time. I have always questioned rules and policies made by those in a position of power throughout my life. If the rules are logical and ethical, I follow them. Like traffic lights, I see a real need for them, and even though they often get in my way of forward-progress on the road, I understand their purpose and therefore obey them (unless I am running late….which is often the case…)
I have always been a bit of a rebel though, so if there are rules in place that serve no purpose, I am not likely to follow them. When I was young, I rebelled against my father’s tyrannical rule. As I get older, I still loathe the idea that I should adhere to someone else’s predefined perception of morality and order, especially when those same people live the complete opposite.
For example, religious doctrine has a plethora of rules to dictate how we should live our lives, most of which are antiquated. Each faith is currently mired in its own scandal of immoralities and indiscretions, so tell me why I would adhere to any of the rules they set forth about how to live a righteous life? I’d rather live a purposeful life, thank you very much.
A life in which I am aware of the present moment, of my thoughts, words, and actions, of the harm they may or may not inflict upon others, and as such take the necessary steps to correct that behavior (hopefully before, but usually after) as it happens. People who bear a capacity for empathy do not need many rules, for we are fully conscious as to how our lives impact others, and we know how our words and actions make others feel. It’s easy, then, to live in accordance with the Golden Rule.
Those of us who tend to have little capacity for empathy don’t fare well with simple or few rules. It only takes one bad apple to spoil the bunch, right? It is the narcissists, the sociopaths, the power-hungry ones who have ruined it for the rest of us. They have to be given rules about how to live because they have no clue how to treat others or how their lives intersect with ours. I know, I have dated/worked for/been friends with far too many of these egomaniacal maniacs to understand that you have to explicitly set boundaries because they will, and do, cross them.
They don’t see their behavior as wrong, and they don’t understand that they should do unto others as they would have done to them. From their perspective, there are no ‘others.’ There is only them. Narcissists only see other people as reflections of themselves and lack any ability to empathize with how another person might feel – it is only their feelings, their thoughts, their reality that exists. You are seemingly nothing but a mirror, and if they don’t like what they see, they walk away.
It used to hurt when those types of people would cut me off from their lives, without any explanation, just admonish you from existence. Then, I realized that I was free to not take their actions personally, to be responsible for how I felt, and the choice I made to be in a relationship with them, to begin with. I was free to have my own set of rules and standards and boundaries, ones that I could find tolerable.
Turns out that when you make the agreement with yourself that you don’t need to be around people who treat you like shit, you find you can tolerate yourself a lot more, and this is a rule worth tolerating, my friends.