The Pressure of Do’s and Don’ts: The Secret Language of Policing Behavior



Whenever I see a post titled “7 Ways to Know How” or “What You Should Obviously Know” or “Don’t Do This or You’re A D-Bag” — I get a little knot in my guts and I’m compelled to tattoo all the info in my brainfolds.  It’s an overwhelming shock of adrenaline and endorphins.  I feel both a mini-panic-attack and a bursting well of satisfaction that I suddenly know more than the helpless masses, because I got the secret sauce from Cracked and Relevant and Christianity Today, so I’m ready to flex my newfound skills to impress my witless friends.

Many of these practical tips are useful, and maybe even life-saving.  There are experts who have done it better than us, and we need to hear from them.

But all this anxiety-driven pragmatism either 1) paralyzes me into a deep fear of failure, or 2) gets me in an uppity self-righteous superiority over others who don’t know nothing.

I also get the sneaking suspicion that I’m just copying some programmatic method to earn the approval of my culture-bubble, and if I don’t know the 20 Facts on What To Do When I’m 20, then I’m totally losing at life.

I can see the slithery snake of a needle underlying all these “Do’s and Don’ts.”  We have suspected a secret insider-language suffocating every must-know list —

You should.  You’re supposed to.  You have to.  You better — or else.  If you miss this — you’re out.  Get on my program, or you’re dead.

I’m not sure this is any better than religion.  It sounds like we’re adding burdens rather than setting people free.  And a list of “How To Set People Free” is still dripping with the poison of arrogance.

It’s just adding rules about how to follow rules.  This is legalism, and it’s not okay.

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