Rules you can break, and those you can't Print
Youth Column
Written by Karen Osborne, Catholic News Service   
Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014 -- 12:00 AM

Every morning on the way to work, I see the same two guys on the same two bicycles. One wears a helmet and reflective gear. He sticks to the right side of the road and stops at all the red lights. The other sports massive black headphones with no helmet, and weaves through traffic on both sides of the road, blowing through all the stoplights.

I wonder which one of them is going to get hit by a truck first.

It's obvious that the guy who's ignoring all the rules of the road has more chances of getting hurt.

There are times, however, when following the rules is dumb. I love video games, but a male friend of mine asked, "Isn't that a guy thing? Why are you playing a video game?" In his world, the rule is that girls don't play video games.

Everyone breaks the rules now and again -- even people who consider themselves law-abiding citizens. Generally, rules are there to help, even when they feel like a drag. No eating in class? The teacher doesn't want you distracted. No jumping into the swimming pool? They don't want you cracking your skull open or getting hurt. No lying or cheating? This one is obvious.

How do you tell the difference between a rule that's good to follow and a rule that should be disregarded?

I first ask myself whether the rule has my safety, security, health and future in mind. The answer clears things up pretty quickly. For example, if the rule says you have to wear a helmet while riding a bike, even though it might be uncomfortable and dorky, wearing it will protect me.

The "rule" that girls shouldn't play video games has absolutely nothing to do with safety and security -- it has to do with sexism.

You can apply this to a lot of things. Maybe your parents gave you a curfew, and you're chafing over it and thinking of sneaking out. Does the curfew have your health in mind? It does. It means you'll sleep well and be awake and bright for school the next day.

The same applies to homework or studying for tests: Good grades will affect your future, so buckle down and do it.

Other "safety" rules you should follow include: no drinking or drugs, the rules of the road (whether you're on a bicycle or behind the wheel), rules at your house, and rules at school. If you ever wonder why a certain rule is in place, feel free to ask.

But there are rules that can be broken. They include most fashion rules for guys and girls, the rules about who sits where in the cafeteria, who plays which video games, who goes to the school dance with whom, which sports team you can root for. Girls can play video games and guys can enjoy fashion.

Any rules having to do with sexism, racism, classism, and discrimination are rules you can break with abandon.

Karen Dietlein Osborne contributes to “Coming of Age,” a CNS column series for and about youth. She is a staff writer for the Evangelist, newspaper of the Diocese of Albany, N.Y..


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