But What About?

If you’ve been here before, you’ll know I’m not fond of rules.

Control, coercion, punishment…as a teacher I found those to be pretty ineffective ways to run a classroom. The more rules you have, the more time you spend enforcing rules instead of doing important stuff.

I learned later in my career that things work pretty well with a simple principle: everyone gets treated with dignity and respect.

Most kids got it. They wanted to live in a classroom like that. With some discussion they embraced the idea and actually worked to advance it.

Some, of course, looked for exceptions and loopholes and ways to game the system to their advantage. What about this? What will happen if I do that?

When principles are involved, it’s always those issues around the edges where the problems occur. When one of those off-the-wall problems comes up, the temptation is to abandon the principal and write a rule.

Of course, creating rules for all those special situations is exactly how we end up with long lists of silly rules. Rules that don’t apply to most people and aren’t necessary most of the time.

The other possibility is to stick with your principles even when it’s hard, even at the edges when it’s not easy or obvious how things should work. That requires a whole bunch of communication. There’s going to be disagreement, and some really stubborn cases won’t ever be perfectly resolved to the satisfaction of everyone involved.

The alternative, though, is to pretend a series of do’s and don’ts and consequences can substitute for a principle. But you can’t make a list of rules for how to treat people with dignity and respect, any more than you can make a list of rules for how to love your neighbor.

That’s why Jesus didn’t write a rule book.

We encounter this issue on our bike tours. If you bring a bunch of people together for a few days, ask them to live and ride together and share their lives in close quarters, you need some principles to establish a culture.

For example, when we say we ride as a team and explain what that means, most folks embrace the notion and do their best to advance it. Obviously, one can think of extreme examples.

What about this? What if that happens? It’s easy to come up with circumstances that will stretch the principle, and it’s tempting to make up a rule. And one rule leads to the next, and you have a rule book. And that’s just not what we want on the FREEDOM TOUR.

I’ll bet you encounter this dilemma, in your workplace or your family or in some other group. Hard and fast rules with clear consequences always seem like the way to go. But no list of rules can ever replace clear principles.

“Love everyone” is hard to work out. We’ll never do it perfectly.

Doesn’t mean we should try to replace it with a list of rules.

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