Rules suck, don't they?

I mean, really, don't they? You decide you want to play a game, or write a book, or publish some shareware, or... I don't know... contribute to a collaborative Web site, and just when you're having fun with it someone comes along and tells you that there are rules about how to do it.

There are certain things you can't do during the game.

or: The publisher wants your writing to be approved by an editor.

or: The shareware community demands that your software work on other hardware configurations besides just your own.

or: The people who manage the Web site want you to do things a certain way in order for your contributions to be recognized.

How dare they??

How dare these self-righteous know-it-alls tell you how to do things? This is a free country! Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and all that! You can, and will, behave however you damn well like, and to hell with anyone who says you can't!

Well, that's all true. But here's another little tip: you do not have a right to not be offended. Rules and guidelines are, and always will be, part of being a member of a community. When a group of people carve out a little space for themselves in the world, be it physical or virtual, they set up borders. Those borders are intended to keep things neat, ordered, and comfortable for as many people as possible.

These people are not telling you how to live your life. They are telling you that, if you want to participate in what they're doing, you have to do it their way. It's their ball, their bat. And if you're upset that you get yelled at for not following the rules, maybe you should stop and read the rules before joining the game.

We are willing to understand that you were in a hurry to join. We shared your excitement once, too. And when we erred, we were reprimanded for it and took it in the spirit with which it was intended. What we did not do was whine, rant, and blame everybody except ourselves for not being able to do things our way.

We learned the rules, we understood them, and we agreed to play by them. And when we win, we do it fair and square. And when we don't, we take it like an adult and try again. We can understand your frustration at being thwarted. We empathize, truly. But if you don't like how the game is being played, the mature thing to do is to move on to another game without trying to make a scene.

Life doesn't always conform to the self-centered picture you've painted of the universe in your head.

Get over it.

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