Rules Don’t Excuse Being Stupid

A United Airlines employee assisting a distraught mother whose young daughter didn’t arrive at her destination drops the matter because his work shift has come to an end.  A fast food employee is disciplined for the cash register coming up a few dollars short, when the manager had pulled the employee from that station for the day to perform other duties. They did it because the rules of their workplaces told them to. All around us, people are following rules as if there is no other option.  As if the existence of man-made rules has deprived us of our ability to think.

Rules exist for a purpose.  They provide guidance for expected conduct in the expected circumstances. But no rule can foresee every circumstance that arises. And guidance is not a straight-jacket. By blindly applying  established rules, we reduce ourselves to no more than soulless automatons. But I know humankind is more than that.  Far more.

Think about the heroes who emerge in any crisis. Ordinary men and women who are said to “rise to the occasion.”  They are no different than any of us, except that they saw something that needed to be done and did it, in disregard to the applicable rules or expectations. Or think about the parable of the Good Samaritan. There was a long-standing hatred between Jews and Samaritans, yet a Samaritan ignored the societal rules to assist a Jew who lay beaten at the side of the road.

In my novel Foreseen, Sasha Reynolds reports a rule violation, justifying it as doing what she was supposed to do. That decision turns out to be a devastating one for the main character. That event and her reasons for doing it should be a warning to us all. Rules are meant to be followed for the most part.  But when we find ourselves saying we must take a course of action because of a rule, we should stop and think for ourselves. Regardless of what the rule “requires,” what is the right option under the circumstance?

So think about it the next time you find yourself taking one path when your heart or brain is saying to take another.  Who do you want to be? One of the Fukushima 50, who defied the order to evacuate the Japanese nuclear power plant to prevent a more extreme catastrophe? Or would you rather simply be another victim of the disaster? It’s not an easy choice in the moment. But it is one worth considering.

Use your brain, and choose your actions.

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