Archive for June 26th, 2008

When to Question Authority

June 26, 2008

Yesterday I wrote about the importance of respecting authority.  I do believe that this is an important principle to maintain in our lives.  The question becomes “Should we always do what we are told to do by those in authority?”  The answer, of course, is no… but how do we decide when to submit, and when to resist?

I believe that the key words are: Illegal, immoral, and unacceptable risk.

If we are being told by an employer, or teacher or other authority to do something that is illegal then we should chose to disobey.  Our responsibility to a higher authority becomes the issue.

In the same way, if we are being told to do something that is opposed to our religious or moral convictions, then we need to follow the higher path.

If we are being told to do something that is unacceptably dangerous, we can choose to disobey. 

The difficulty comes in knowing when these conditions apply.  Also, if we choose to disobey, we need to be willing to accept the consequences of our decision.  We can, if it is warranted, appeal to higher authorities for justice, but that may or may not work out in our favor.

There is also the decision to remove oneself from under a particular authority.  You can leave a job, move to another location, attend a different church, etc.  Ultimately, we are autonomous beings and are responsible for our own actions and who we choose to follow.  There is a tension between the obligation to be a responsible part of a group, and our opportunity to follow our own path.