Don’t Tell Me What to Do

cranky kid

It has recently occurred to me that I am adverse to people telling me what to do. You may think I am just a rebellious, non-compliant, cranky old codger.  And you might be right, but I think there is something else at play here.

I grew up with an abundance “should’s and shouldn’t’s.” So, I became accustomed to being compliant, or feeling guilty because I did not meet someone’s expectations. Then, I would heap blame and shame upon myself, thinking I must surely be at fault.

People still try playing their Jedi mind control games with me. Only, I won’t play along. Now, when I get external pressure to perform a certain way, I immediately respond by not complying, until I can understand if the demand is aligned with my personal identity and values.

This summer I  encountered a  street preacher on the corner with his PA system, huge sign that says, “Trust Jesus,” and t-shirt that says, “Saved from God’s Wrath.”

 What a “brilliant” strategy. Get in people’s faces in a public place on a Saturday at an event where people go to have fun, and then tell these perfect strangers to make an on-the-spot decision about the most intimate and far reaching thing possible. Do it so God won’t become angry with you.

I trust Jesus, but I don’t trust people that hold “Trust Jesus” signs and preach at people on the street corner. That’s not the way God works.

I have had people spout off with all manner a hit-and-run theology. “All you need is the BIble!” “I hope you are ready for the rapture!” “The Holy Eucharist is pretty good, eh!” It’s like magic. A book is magic. A theory of end time events is magic. A commemoration of the last supper combined with some mysticism is magic. They are the magic pill that makes you good with God.

It all of that I heard no mention of the grace and love of God, without with, we would all be doomed. I heard no mention of the way that Jesus defied the religious conventions of his day to show his love for those deemed worthless by everyone else.

But, I am preaching, now.

Is it legitimate to not like being told what to do, or is it simply a disdain for authority?  That might be hard for me to answer personally, since I do have a disdain for authority, but anyway …

Being resistant to being told what to do is general a virtuous thing. Granted, children would do well to listen to their parents. Employees would be wise to generally comply with their bosses. And it is a usually a good idea to obey the law. These are social conventions. We have granted these people authority. Parents, bosses, and officials have authority, unless they betray our trust. They have  the right to tell us what to do, with only a few limitations.

But anyone else, must be granted that authority, and legitimate authorities better be careful not to abuse their position, or we may revoke that privilege.

We don’t like somebody telling us what to do because:

  • Nobody can make up your mind for you. To let someone do so would be just plain lazy and irresponsible. We all have to weigh the pros and cons and consider the consequences of something as guided by our own values.
  • You have to grant someone permission to have authority over you (like government officials.) You have to grant somebody the power to have influence over you. And you should be very careful with that.
  • You are responsible for you. Nobody can assume that or take it away from you. And we darn sure better not give it away.

About Glenn

Glenn Hager is a blogger, newspaper columnist, and author of two books, An Irreligious Faith and Free Range Faith.
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