The Trouble With Absolutes, Part 2: Everything Else

No Pass
No Pass (Photo credit: Daryl Marquardt)

Today is about good ideas that go bad when they are held too rigidly.

Last Tuesday, Nicholas’ ear flared up the day we were all told to stay off the roads. Christian and I argued about going to the ER anyway–everything else was shut down–but we realized we really were snowbound. So we paged the doctor, and he gave us instructions to help as much as possible, then told us to come in first thing in the morning.

On Wednesday I had a mid-morning appointment I couldn’t miss, and I knew if I waited to call the doctor’s office when they opened, their first available would conflict with my can’t-miss. So I packed the kids up and arrived at the office when it opened, to ask them to work us in with the on-call doctor.

They wouldn’t do it. My doctor would be in later; office policy is that we have to see our doctor if he’s in. They offered me the conflicting appointment I’d expected…or one seven hours later. I emphasized how long Nicholas had been suffering already, the fact that we’d talked to the doctor by phone, and the circumstances unique to this particular day. The receptionist told me if it was that bad I could have sought out emergency services.

We came back home in defeat. I called Christian in tears. He called the office on a rampage. The office manager apologized profusely and they got us in directly after my appointment. And every person in the building apologized to me as I hauled my four children in for the second time.

My point is this: policies are enacted to make sure patients get excellent care, and that is a good thing. But the policy is not the end point. Excellent care is the end point. You can’t hold fast to a policy with no exceptions, because circumstances will arise in which the policy intended to accomplish one goal actually accomplishes the opposite.

In other words: Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27).

In other words, rules are made to serve people–not people to serve rules.

In other words, absolutes don’t work.

Philosophies, policies, political ideals–these things are all theoretical. In theory, they all make sense. Any political philosophy will work…providing that everyone in the entire world lives them out perfectly. Conservatism, liberalism, socialism, libertarianism–if everyone does what they’re supposed to according to the philosophical model, that model will work.

The problem is, we live in a real world.

Theory A: It’s not government’s job to take care of the poor–it’s the responsibility of individuals. Yep, I can buy that. Only problem? If you put that pure theory into practice in a world full of diverse people, a lot of people are going to suffer. Some jobs are so big, only a central organization can do them.

Theory B: Government has a responsibility to take care of the poor and oppressed. Government has a responsibility to be proactive and ensure the future through investment in infrastructure and social safety nets. Yep, I’ll buy that too. Only problem? You only have so much money. You can’t just do things because you want to; somebody’s got to pay for them, and you’ve got to be realistic about what can and can’t be paid for.

Theory C: See here for my missive on disability and the claim to being “prolife.

The trouble with absolutes is that they have to interact with the real world. None of them will work in their pure form. They just won’t. It’d be nice if they would, but that’s not reality.

Absolutes don’t work. I can say, “Every single day I will work during nap time, and quit for the day when the kids get up.” But some days, there is no nap, and I have to cuddle a cranky baby all day. And other days, I’m on deadline, and I have to finish a project, even if nap time is over. Real life is give and take. Real life involves compromise. Real life means being flexible. And holding rigid positions on family life, office policies or national politics is not going to work, now or ever.