Monday, June 1, 2009

When Do You Break the Rules?

Boundaries exist for a reason.

No, their purpose is not to complicate your life. Nor do they intend to keep you from having fun. And they aren’t around to restrict you to a colorless world of misery. Rather, boundaries exist as protection, to help prevent you from diving headlong into the trouble that will make you miserable.

But sometimes the boundaries not written in stone (unlike the Ten Commandments) must be bent or even broken. This is why I prefer to call my work here fiction guidelines, not fiction rules. Sometimes these boundaries must be crossed.

Crossing them, however, whenever you want will get you into trouble. So the questions becomes when? At what times should you consider breaking the rules?

Like the fiction guidelines themselves, there is no hard and fast rule. But here’s a few things to consider:

Is this a one-time crossing? You don’t want to risk the bad habits and desensitization that would come from breaching the same spot in your defenses on a consistent basis.

Are you violating a biblical foundation, maturity level, or a personal limitation? They each have varying degrees of potential consequences. Personal limitations can change over time, so an occasional crossing might not do only limited damage, but it might even be healthy. Maturity marks areas you aren’t ready for (think a child reaching for a dish on a too-high shelf), so crossing could help you stretch and grow… or cause serious damage. The biblical foundation requires the most caution as damage inflicted at this level are likely to leave deep scars.

Do the benefits outweigh potential dangers? Advantages might include following pop culture to engage coworkers in intelligent conversation or tracking the latest trends for occupations like writing or pastoral work.

But above all, make sure you apply much caution and extra safeguards, more than you think you will need. For crossing the line means entering hostile territory.

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