Rules Schmools or Why I’ve Been Called a Goody Two-Shoes


I’ll get this confession off my chest right now.

I…*cough cough*…follow rules.

I don’t mean some of the time, or most of the time, but practically ALL of the time, I observe instructions and adhere to the guidelines set out for me.

Real life example: I posted a just-for-fun quiz listing a bunch of things I might have done at a writer’s conference and asked which did Elise not do?  Almost all my friends pounced on the fictitious item that described me flirting my way past a “no entry” sign to an off-limits author lounge.  They just knew it wasn’t something I’d do, because it meant breaking rules.

Sometimes being predictable like that makes me feel boring.

I suspect that the U.S.A. gained a cultural identity rooted in questioning authority somewhere around the American Revolution. There’s still huge popularity for rebellion, sometimes at any cost. Don’t get me wrong, I do I think there’s a time and a place for it.

However, there are plenty of folks out there who will naturally assume that rule-followers are *I pause while I steel myself for this* complacent, passive, and of lesser intelligence.

My response is a polite, “Screw all y’all” (If such a thing might ever be deemed polite) and the following explanation:

I follow rules because I believe in initially respecting authority.

If I’m given evidence to the contrary (such as facts suggesting this authority should not be followed or respected), I assess it. I believe in giving people a shot before assuming that I have the better solution.

I learned years ago that the only way to approach something and really learn it is to accept that you’re a beginner with lots of room to grow.  If you think you “know” it and grasp the entire concept in the first explanation, chances are you’re missing out on the depth. Even worse: Deciding you’ll just figure it out your own way (unless you really do prefer the method that takes five to one hundred times longer).

Intelligence does not imply opposition to the status quo.  If you questioned everything, there would be no such thing as the wisdom of the elders who have gone before us, and I strongly believe in wisdom from gurus. Without the gurus in my life, I’d personally be floundering and doubting myself like nobody’s business. Honestly, wouldn’t we all?

I’m a rule-follower and I love it.

Rules create an orderly worldview, and I’ll readily admit that I don’t need more chaos in my life, thank you very much.

Someone told me that this shows my faith in the natural order of things.  Perhaps it does.

What about you? Do you gravitate toward rules, or away from them? Why do you think this is?


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This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. I’m not sure that following rules actually has that connotation these days. I believe that our generation has been cited as more likely to follow rules and look to authority figures. Personally, I feel very ill-at-ease when it comes to doing things that are against the rules. I don’t want to go into places I’m not allowed to go into, and I know that many of my friends feel similarly. I want to believe in people and I want to feel that people who are experienced are teachers that can help us.

    I think where the rules-following falls apart is when you get into the letter vs. the spirit. Are you following the rules to too great a degree? There are always those times when an authority figure will tell you to ignore the rules, because the rules are meant to promote harmony, not stifle people. Perhaps this is what is coming up for you?

    That is not to say that you are stifling ~_^

  2. I think, Niece, that this would be a great tea time discussion. Wanna ride a ferry before it is too late?-
    your formerly-meticulous-rule -following Aunt (still an aunt, no longer meticulous)

    1. Aunt, I would be intrigued to talk with you more on this. 🙂 James and I still talk about coming over and visiting you guys. I’m sorry it hasn’t happened yet! I’ll chat with him about some times we might want to do this.

  3. This doesn’t surprise me in the least. I’ve pegged you as a Hermione type quite a long time ago. And there is nothing wrong with following all the rules, and trying to excel in everything you put your hand at, though sometimes it can make one seem a bit neurotic (not that I think you are neurotic, though I’m sure you may sometimes have to struggle against trying to please everyone all the time, what with all those rules that authority types like to make).

    I tend to be more of a Harry Potter (if I may use that analogy). I don’t set out to break rules (*cough* often) but if I can’t understand the point of a rule, I see no problem breaking it. Case in point: red cross walk signs when there is no traffic around. Why should I wait for the light to turn white when there is nothing around to endanger me?! The rule doesn’t make any sense to me, in that situation, and so I see no problem breaking it.

    1. Ah, Harry Potter and Hermione analogies… Thank you. Yes, I identify strongly with Hermione in that series (sidenote: I think the only exception may be her attraction to Ron Weasley, but I shall have to do a re-read before I can be sure of this one). I do find that struggling to please everyone by following rules is great for inducing anxiety. It’s led me to look carefully at whether a rule is grounded in morality or simply convention. I’m starting to let myself flout a few conventions if they no longer serve me. It’s still quite the dance, though. Your example of not wanting to observe laws when they have no purpose, such as a red cross walk when no one is around it interesting. I think generally you’re right, though there’s these awful times when people think no one’s there, then a car pulls around a corner and someone gets hurt. That’s more of an exceptional exception though. I think your stance is correct, we just have to be careful to not say “this rules doesn’t apply to me” with much liberality, because that’s where things can get really dangerous. My two cents–obviously coming from a Hermione. 😉

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