Black and White and Shades of Gray


I am a rule follower.  My utopia is a place where there is a single set of rules that everyone understands and by which everyone abides. Shades of gray are disconcerting to me.  Being a rule follower is at the same time very liberating and very limiting.

In Myers-Briggs taxonomy, I am an INTJ.  The J stands for Judging.  According to, “the INTJ’s interest in dealing with the world is to make decisions, express judgments, and put everything that they encounter into an understandable and rational system. Consequently, they are quick to express judgments.”

I would make a great judge.  Wiser men and women would have made the rules, the rules would be communicated to the people, and my job would be to ascertain the facts of a situation to determine guilt or innocence.  And bonus – those same smart people would have anticipated levels of guilt and would have already determined the appropriate punishment for each crime.  “You did X.  Let’s see, you’re guilty (or not guilty), and if you’re guilty, here is the punishment.”

I found myself in a situation at work this week in which I had been following a rule, only to find that I was probably the only one not only following that rule, but who even knew it existed.  I felt duped.  In the process of discovering this, I got into discussions with co-workers about rule following and rule breaking.

When it comes to breaking the law, I think we’re all pretty much on the same page.  Black and white.  But in the business of everyday decision making – everyday living – things get very gray.

Is it OK to put that gallon of Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla in the snack aisle next to the Fritos when you suddenly remember your dinner guest said they would bring dessert?  Do you jaywalk when you’re sure you won’t get caught or run over?  Is it OK to get into the express lane with two too many items when no one’s around?  If Fitbit sends you two replacement Charges for the one you broke, do you send the second replacement Charge back?  How far do you go to chase your windblown napkin in the park?

Rule benders have a lot more latitude, I’ll give ‘em that.  Living in a black & white world leaves little room for interpretation.  But black & white is also easy.  There’s a certain burden that comes from opening things up for interpretation.  I never have to think, “How bad would it be, really, if I…”

What’s your take?  Are you a rule follower or a rule breaker? Or are you a rule bender?

5 thoughts on “Black and White and Shades of Gray

  1. I’m definitely in the gray area when it comes to following rules. For example, it is quite common for me to turn left at an intersection when the turn lane arrow is undebatably red. I often snack freely in the bulk food aisle of the grocery store. What can I say!? I’m a bit of a rebel… 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am so opposite of a rule follower. I hate rules, especially other people’s rules. I’ll follow the rules if they are reasonable, but if rules are put in place to make my life miserable, no way. I bend it, flout it, stick my middle finger at it. But it takes all kinds for the world to go around so I can appreciate the rule followers too.

    Liked by 1 person

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