Strang Verboten

One of the noted tendencies of my life is to act as if that which is not strictly forbidden is permitted [1], a tendency that has in some circumstances, namely engineering and similar strategic problems, given me a great deal of success in life by moving beyond mere conventionalities to find novel ways of solving difficulties. At such moments, it would appear as if my native bent towards climbing through a window where a door has been closed has been immensely successful. Yet there is a darker side to this, and it would be remiss of me to neglect the tradeoffs that come from my own particular mindset. As might be expected, it is easiest to see how this approach to life and behavior can be problematic when seen from the outside. It is hard for us to reflect on our own nature unless we can somehow view it from how it appears to others, and this is easiest to do when we see how our own life is affected by the behavior of others, which then allows us to examine ourselves and to see how our own behavior could very well have the same (or worse) effect on others. By being observant and concerned about others, we better understand ourselves.

One of the downsides of not doing what is strictly forbidden but going as far as one possibly can is the problem of mixed messages. To give a hypothetical example, let us say that two people are forbidden from speaking to each other, but yet both of these people are strong believers in doing what is not forbidden. These people might not talk to each other directly, but transmit messages through third parties, or might write messages that could be read by the other without being directly sent to that person, or might speak about the other person where they could be heard by the person who they wish to communicate with. Alternatively, while forbidden to have direct communication, a person might wish to put themselves as close to the other person as possible as often as possible without actually showing friendliness like greeting or waving or hugging or saying hello or goodbye so as to technically obey the order while sending a mixed message that one wanted to be around the other person anyway, with the possible hope of communicating some level of friendliness even if more detailed or more direct communication is strictly forbidden.

Another downside of going as far as one can possibly go is the fact that one who is continually working against boundary lines will eventually and occasionally cross over those lines and become a transgress and a trespasser [2]. At times, this can be painful and even dangerous. For example, after my freshman year of high school I went to a church summer camp held in rural central Florida. After swimming on the first day of camp, and seeing some of the younger campers hang their swimming trunks on the rafters of the cabin to dry, I thought this would be a good idea, so I tried to sling my trunks on the rafter while keeping my head away from the rapidly spinning ceiling fan. Unfortunately, I miscalculated the distance and ended up getting a sizable head wound from the ceiling fan that caused the fan to wobble for the rest of camp and required several staples and being strictly forbidden from any athletic activities for the rest of camp, as well as a loss of appetite for the next three days, and an embarrassing nickname and story with a lot of my peers. To this day I have a scar on the left side of my head that shows the path of the ceiling fan blade as it whacked me in the scalp.

What then, is one to do? In order to distinguish situations where creative solutions are helpful and where we might easily get carried away, we must possess a fair amount of discretion and wisdom. This can sometimes be difficult to obtain without a considerable amount of suffering. We must also have a certain humility and candor with ourselves (and others) if we recognize this tendency within ourselves, so that we communicate a desire not to cross over lines with others or show disrespect or a lack of concern about their thoughts and feelings. If we know we have a tendency of pushing boundaries and limits, we have to be aware, for our own well-being, that there will be times that these tendencies will cost us. We also need to be aware that other people may also share this tendency and have a tendency to push the boundaries and limits that we set in our interactions for them, and we have to be prepared to treat other people with the same level of graciousness and patience and firmness that we desire from others in living lives that are decent and honorable. If we are unable to do so, we may find a great deal of conduct is strictly forbidden because we cannot be trusted to respect lines and boundaries without being explicitly told, and that is not always an enjoyable place to be.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Christianity, Love & Marriage, Musings and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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