There are many things that speak to a broken moral standard, but the one that hit me personally was the way the people close to me focused on the things that were okay for me to experience in my marriage: abuse, yes; divorce, no.
I’ve shared my story before, and I’m not thrilled to do it again. All I will say is that I endured daily mental abuse and infrequent physical abuse. The physical abuse didn’t really phase me for a variety of reasons, but mostly because the mental abuse was far greater.
I talked to my parents, to my sisters, to my friends, and even to her sister, and no one seemed to care. The best response I got was that they would pray for her. No one took it seriously, and so I never felt like I had any hope that it would be better. This was my life and it was up to me “as the man of the house” to make it better.
See, I grew up in a culture where divorce was forbidden. Don’t misunderstand: it wasn’t that it was to be avoided, it’s that it was not to be done. When it came down to what was permissible it was abuse, yes; divorce, no.
Help, No; Judgment, Yes
That experience was a defining moment for me. Actually, it was a defining decade for me. I realized that when the chips were down, there were very, very few I could count on. I realized that the people who should be there often never will. It showed me that people often focus more on keeping the status quo than on people.
I realized that for some, following the rules is all that they have. They have to obey the rules and have others obey the rules even if the rules are broken, because those people don’t know how to exist outside them.
Unfortunately, rules that say “abuse, yes; divorce, no”, are not good rules. Rules that judge others rather than help them are not good rules. Rules should help people, not hurt them.
Don’t run in the street is a good rule. Don’t play with your friends is not. Rules should be in service to making lives better, not to adhere to a broken moral standard.
A Broken Moral Standard
When we force people to endure terrible things just to avoid upsetting the status quo, we’ve failed. Our focus should always be on people. The rules we have in place are for people. We don’t adhere to rules for the rule’s sake; we adhere to them because the rules are there to protect and help people. The moment a rule fails in that purpose is the moment it needs to be altered.
This carries well beyond my personal experience. We focus more on destroyed property from rioters than on the loss of life that caused the unrest. We focus more on protecting our property with guns than on the human life that is wasted when we use them.
Forget abuse, yes; divorce, no. In this case it’s property: yes; human life: no. As much as destruction of property is bad, it’s not worse than the loss of human life. And if you look at those examples and your first thought is “but…”, my only question to you is – what’s more important, human life or property?
A better question might be does human life only matter to you in certain circumstances or always? Does a person who’s stealing to feed a drug habit make you feel we need to find ways to provide help for people who abuse substances or does it make you want to protect your stuff?
There are so many things in our world that are broken, and so many can be narrowed down to a broken moral standard: a focus on incorrect rules over the good of people.
A Better Approach
If you want to make the world better, make sure the rules are aligned with your purpose. Don’t just blindly follow rules that don’t work. Those that don’t work should be obvious. When you’re saying “abuse, yes; divorce, no”, there should be an alarm bell in your head that says something is wrong.
When you hear those alarm bells ringing, ask what the purpose of the rule is you want to preserve. What’s its benefit to the people in this case? If the only benefit of the rule is to do what you’re told, it has no value. That’s a terrible rule.
If instead, there is a purpose for people behind the rule, then ask what the purpose is. Look at the possibilities. Look at how we can make the world better for people, not just get people to follow the rules. The rules should make the world better, not just for a few people, but for everyone.
If you want a better world, look past the rules, and look to the people. After all, if it’s not about people, what’s it about?