The concept of setting limits is about as basic and fundamental to human conduct as is the very essence of life and death. In order to attain a positive life experience; in order to enjoy liberty, freedom and attain any form of self fulfillment and in order for individuals and communities to seek and attain the “pursuit of happiness” it is an absolute requirement that limits are set and observed.
Limits are as common to the human experience as is breathing. As youngsters our parents set limits. We are instructed to do certain things and not do certain things as part of a learning process that both provides safety and security as well as a development foundation for a healthy and long life. Eating ones vegetables, doing homework before television, avoiding drugs and alcohol and other self destructive behaviors are just limits that are for our own good.
Our religions address the basics of why we are here and for what purpose, if any. They also teach us about good and bad behavior. Many of us learn the Ten Commandments – ten limits that are dos and don’ts for our own individual benefit as much as the well being of the communities in which we live and the proper respect for our Creator.
Through limits we learn to support and respect others – “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
We grow and develop and learn the rules of science and nature. Natural limits that provide us with food and shelter and many forms of bounty. We learn how the very elements of our environment behave and we study them to use their predictive activities to our benefit (usually) and our detriment (sometimes.)
We learn that there are destructive behaviors in human conduct such as the seven deadly sins and we are taught the seductive appeal and destructive consequences of these activities which are nothing more than the abuse or ignorance of limits. Gluttony is an abuse of self control. Greed is the substitution of one’s self interest over the community interest. Pride is rampant self love in place of concern and care about others in society. Each of the great destructive behaviors occurs in the void or ignorance of limit setting and adherence.
Setting limits and observing limits is as fundamental as caring for another human being, helping out someone who is less fortunate and teaching values to a youngster. Any society must set limits in order to survive and thrive. And society must limit and contain the destructive behaviors of others who may be put in a position of power and therefore attain the opportunity to do harm.
We study history to see what happens when limits are set and observed. And what happens when they are not set and observed. We study the lessons of history to learn about what is significant and what is insignificant; what works and what doesn’t work; what is beneficial and what is detrimental. We observe and study the activities of specific humans to develop an understanding, a lesson, in how to improve our own lives. We trust the experience of older people to teach us these lessons and guide us as we find our way.
In the political environment setting limits can also be the very fundamental of a long and lasting compact between the people and the government. In the US of A we are blessed with two of the most fundamental examples of a positive statement about setting limits in establishing a governing authority and in maintaining the needed level of ongoing limits to guarantee the continuance of this positive compact. These examples are the Declaration of Independence and the USConstitution. These guides were given to us by our predecessors who lived under difficult and abusive conditions. They contain the lessons of limit setting that are as valuable to us as the Ten Commandments, the Golden Rule and the Seven Deadly Sins.
In coming essays TheFundamentals will look at the limits set in these documents. We will look at why the limits were set. We will also examine our record in following the limits. And we will look at the consequences of betraying or ignoring these limits.