Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Breaking Your Rules

Most people have rules for how you must relate to them. There are the Primary Rules such as don’t lie, cheat, steal, etc. Then there are the Secondary Rules: for example, Don’t ever raise your voice at me; Tell me I am good looking, at least once a day; When I ask you a question, you must answer me instantly; Faithful is the friend who never wounds me with the truth; Laugh at all my jokes.

One of the problems with our Secondary Rules is treating them as if they were Primary Rules, so that failure to obey them will get the rule-breaking sinners excommunicated from our presence, or at least sent to their room for a time-out. But do we really want to treat “raising your voice at me” as if it were the same as “stealing from me”? Maybe they’re just passionate communicators, for crying out loud. Sorry. For crying out sooooooftly. Don’t want you to go all Darth Vader on me.

Another problem with Secondary Rules is that we are often not conscious of them. To us they are presuppositions that are so unquestionably true that we do not even think of them. Never have. Well, not until someone crosses us and then our anger is screaming: “Look! Why it’s one of my rules being broken!!” (I have a theory here that the more Secondary Rules you have, the fewer the friends, but that’s a topic for another day.)

The next time you choose to erupt in anger at someone who has broken your rules and banish them until they show an appropriate degree of repentance, STOP! Take a breath. Now. Ask yourself:

Is this a Primary or Secondary Rule and am I responding accordingly?
Did this person know about these rules?
Did she/he/they agree to abide by your rules?

I wonder if it would help here, if, once you become aware of a Secondary Rule, you would place it in a category titled, Preferences. And it would definitely be useful if you would have conversations with your loved ones about these Preferences. After you’ve calmed down, of course.

My experience is that more relationships are busted up by conflicts over Secondary Rules than by Primary ones. Worse, the offenders were quite often clueless about the rule, until they had broken it.

“But they should have known. After all, everyone knows this is a rule. Come on, Wilson, if Moses were alive today, he would have chiseled this one onto the stone tablets.”


Edited Reposting - Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2013

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