Give Me A Choice

I don’t like to be told what to do. I don’t react well when someone points a finger at me and orders me to do something. My first reaction is either “no” or “why?” My sense is that this is a universal reaction. The people I know react badly to orders.

On the other hand, I do react well to requests. If someone asks me for my help, or they ask me if I am willing to do something, I usually say yes. I want to help other people. I react better to the gesture of someone reaching out their hand for help, instead of the gesture of pointing a finger at me.
When I was young, I was introduced to The Ten Commandments. What I took away from my first experience with the Commandments was a sense of finger pointing. I had a difficult time getting past the “Thou shalt…” and “Thou shalt not….”

I recently read an essay by someone who noted that he would have reacted better to the Commandments if they had been written a bit more gently. In other words, instead of “Honor thy Father and thy Mother”, perhaps something like “we honored our fathers and our mothers”. Instead of “Thou shalt remember the Sabbath day”, perhaps “we remembered the Sabbath day”.

The act of sharing experience (“this is what we did”) is easier for me to accept than being told what to do (“do this or else”).

This concept works for me in parenting and in personal relationships. When I ask my children and my family for help, help is always available. When I point fingers and try to boss them around, I don’t get very good results.
If some of what I have just written seems like I have a problem with authority, I suppose that is true. I just looked up a definition of authority, and the definition was “the power or right to give orders, make decisions, or enforce obedience”.

My first reaction to the idea of someone “enforcing obedience” or “giving orders” is- who put you in charge of me?

I grew up learning about the American Revolution, and the Declaration of Independence. It sounds like my American ancestors weren’t happy about being told what to do, either.

Where I come from, respect for authority is earned, not automatically granted. Respect for authority is based on trust, and that trust can be lost a lot easier than it can be gained.


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