At dinner recently one of our daughters was talking about driving faster than the speed limit with her 12 year-old son reminding her she was “breaking the law” and daughter defended herself by saying she knew that if she got a speeding ticket she would have to pay the “consequences.” I found that interesting enough to write a few notes for further rumination.
The issue of what your behavior as a parent says to your kids came right up and daughter used the same defense that kids knew they would have to pay the “consequences” for their “breaking the law.” That wasn’t enough for me so I pushed on with this question, “What other laws are you willing to break because you believe they don’t apply to you and you are the exception or that you believe are unjust and unfair?”
I recall a former Dean of Students who was a rather formidable disciplinarian and she often said to students who had run afoul of the school’s rules, “You don’t believe the rules apply to you and that you are somehow a better judge of what’s right than the school is.” While the student often agreed with her assessment, the student’s parents, and the school, most often did not. Both the Dean and I knew that she was trying to lay the ground work for the student’s reflection later on in life.
Choices! Being aware of our choices and the possible consequences before making a decision is the real issue. We must decide whether or not we are willing to accept the results or possible results of our choices in any particular instance or situation. Here are some examples.
Health. We can choose a healthy life style that includes a diet and exercise that we know will enhance good health or we can ignore those choices and take the chance that health may be affected adversely.
Safety. We can wear seat belts and drive carefully or take risks and increase the odds of being involved in an accident. Insurance companies make tons of money on both issues of health and safety. Most people want to have health insurance and automobile insurance.
Education. We can choose where we or our kids go to school, what the most desirable learning environments are whether K-12 or post secondary, even graduate school. Parents can help facilitate good choices for their kids along the way – elementary, secondary, college and university. School choice values each person.
Work. We can choose our work, that which we care about the most, meaningful and purposeful work or we can take a job and fill a vacancy. Our work is about who we are and we are free to choose that which is closest to our own core values.
Civil rights. The first ten amendments to the Constitution became known as The Bill of Rights. The first amendment contains these five freedoms:
- Freedom of Religion.
- Freedom of Speech.
- Freedom of the Press.
- Freedom to Assemble Peaceably.
- Freedom to Petition the Government for a Redress of Grievances.
For a description of the other amendments, you can refer to this link: http://www.ushistory.org/us/18a.asp There is sometimes disagreement regarding the interpretation of some of these amendments. Suffice to say here that to the extent we are clear about our values and beliefs, we will exercise those in ways that influence our choices and our behaviors.
Finally this. Nothing is final until our last breath. Until then we are free to choose what we believe in strongly enough to act accordingly. If we believe that one of our freedoms is being compromised or limited by others then we can do what we must do to protect and defend our freedom of choice.
Fifty-six years ago, Martin Luther King, Jr was arrested for breaking Alabama’s laws on mass public demonstrations and went to jail. His letter from a Birmingham jail is in the record and a good explanation of why he was willing to break the law that he believed was unjust. His letter goes into great detail about his reasoning and some it can be summed up with this: “Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.” If you are interested in reading the entire letter, here is a link for your information: