New Leaf Blog
We all have expectations of how we and others behave. And we grow up learning to conform to these rules of behaviour. Or, if we break the rules we expect consequences. People who have no understanding of rules, or sense of shame when we break them, are sociopaths.
And, as with all things, the other extreme is also damaging. Conformity leads to different kinds of craziness: the craziness of stagnation; the craziness of not being truly ourselves – because no-one can perfectly live up to all the expectations.
The Dalai Lama doesn’t advocate breaking rules willy-nilly, but a clear-sighted knowing and choosing to achieve something truly effective.
The Balancing Act
Acting authentically creates a human balance. We are true to ourselves and to the others around us, and we use our connection and compassion for others to work within the society that we know and belong in. Authenticity takes courage and the willingness to take the consequences of revealing ourselves and accepting what we are – all of it, including the parts that we are ashamed of, the parts that we know are amazing (society usually demands we keep these hidden too) and the parts that buck the system.
The Dalai Lama’s words suggest to me that breaking the rules is inevitable in everyone’s life. I don’t necessarily mean political action or the kind of law breaking that may get you put in prison. How about social rules, such as taking spending money on yourself when you are broke; having time off when you are up to your eyes in work; doing anything you think you are not allowed to do when actually it would serve you or others in a deeper more meaningful way.
What will people think?
When someone behaves out of society’s norms they generate a reaction, be it shock, fear, curiosity or impressing someone. Behaving against the norm has the effect of moving things on. It shifts the status quo one way or another. If the behaviour is disruptive enough, it can send the paradigm in an unpredictable direction.
If we break the rules randomly or in a way that comes from our own feelings of hurt or anger then the way we move forward may be into more self-blame. But if our rule breaking comes from a place of authenticity – to allow ourselves to speak up for ourselves or others – it may work in important and powerful ways.
Sometimes, you may still end up being dismissed as crazy, weird or irrelevant, or condemned as selfish or arrogant by people who are threatened by your rule breaking. Yet the rewards will be there too – a deep sense of relief that you have been true to yourself, a positive reaction from an empathetic friend, a change in the pattern of your life.
Breaking the rules that living in a way that is true to yourself