Rule Keeper or Rule Bender? 1

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

 Edmund Burke

I’m a rule keeper. If the crosswalk light is red then I won’t walk. If the sign says keep out, I’ll stay out. If something is due by a certain date, I’ll kill myself to get it done. 

My husband is a rule bender. I have many photos of him climbing beyond warning signs on gorges and canyons to get a photo. He defies the laws of gravity by hanging outside helicopters and planes to get a shot. He follows tracks and roads way beyond the gates at times just to see where they go. He’s not reckless, even though it may sound like it, but he does push the boundaries and take risks. 

Me. Not so much. 

However, if something offends my sense of justice, then I might go a little crazy and push past the rules to do something I feel is right. I’m not brave in those cases, just angry.

Growing up, I sometimes used to confront bullies who teased or attacked a disabled boy who caught the bus near my house. I got into fights at school when I saw kids being hurt and stepped in to help. I’ve even been known to attend a few protest marches, but these days I tend to be a quiet writer-type who uses her pen to express ideas. But, sometimes Mama Bear comes out to play.

Years ago, my son was accepted into his dream course at university and when we went to enrol, they told us that the course had been changed and his only course of action was to modify his study plan or go to another university.

We started to walk away because I’m a rule keeper. If someone tells me it can’t be done, I believe them.

However, in this instance I got angry. My son had applied for the course based on an open day a few months earlier and was accepted into the course of study they’d advertised. He didn’t want to go to another university.

So, I asked myself, ‘What would Steve (my husband) do?’

I turned around and asked to see the Vice-Chancellor of the school. They pointed me in the direction of his office and when we arrived the receptionist told us that, the ‘Vice-Chancellor doesn’t see people.’ 

‘What do you mean he doesn’t see people?’

‘He doesn’t see people.’

She looked a little scared at this point. Maybe my attitude was showing.

‘Well, who can we speak to?’

Anyway, long story short, we got to see the Head of School and, after several hours, my son was enrolled with second-year students and was able to study the course he wanted. Now, years later, he is in London working in a dream job.

You might say, ‘Wow. Great story. What’s so significant about that?’

What’s significant is that so often we don’t stand up for things that offend our sense of justice. Sometimes we might have to break a few rules, or at least challenge them, to achieve change.

Recently, I’ve watched a few movies, based on true stories, where people challenge the accepted order. Hidden FiguresThe Best of Men,  and RGB  to name a few. Stories about people who saw, or experienced, something that made them angry and they worked to do something about it. These stories inspire me to be a better person. To hopefully stand on the right side of history. 

Sometimes it’s only when you look back, that the significance of standing up for justice is clear. At the time, it can feel scary or silly or fatuous or even wrong. 

I’m challenged to search my heart for what makes me angry and maybe, just maybe do something about it. There are some pretty big issues out there–refugees, hunger, poverty, homelessness, abuse of children. 

Living wild, living beyond the bounds of being a rule follower, doesn’t mean we are an anarchist, it just might mean that we’re upset or angry enough to step out and do something that scares us for the common good. 

About Elaine Fraser

Elaine realised she wanted to be a writer at ten years of age when the words flew off the page during a creative writing lesson. She studied English and Education at university and went on to spend many years as a high school English teacher teaching others how to write. In 2005, Elaine took the plunge and began writing full-time. Since then she has published five books and blogs at Elaine’s passion is to write about real issues with a spiritual edge. When she’s not travelling the world in search of quirky bookstores or attending writing retreats in exotic locations, she can be found in the Perth hills sitting in her library—writing, reading, mentoring writers and hugging her golden retriever.

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