How to bring humanity to regulations

Jul 12, 2023 | Insights

When you find yourself in a dilemma over humanity and regulations consider four questions to help your decision
I wonder what you thought about the incident at the Ashes at the beginning of July. Opinion seems to have polarised, even amongst those few who understand the rules of cricket.

One view is that wicketkeeper Alex Carey’s dismissal of England batsman Johnny Bairstow was entirely within the regulations and acceptable. The opposite view is the dismissal, whilst within the rules, was not in the spirit of the game. As England captain Ben Stokes said, “Would I have wanted to win a game in that manner? The answer for me is no.”

Spirit or letter?

The choice between regulations and humanity (or spirit) is ever present in the global theatre. Sports, especially the more technical sports, keep expanding their rule books as players seek to use loopholes in the rules to their advantage.

I’ll see it in Lourdes, where I return later this week. Yes, ensuring our assisted pilgrims are protected and not placed in harm’s way is necessary. We have a rigorous set of safeguarding and health and safety procedures and training. These include coloured lanyards, reporting requirements, care delivery standards, etc. 

However, whilst these regulations can seem onerous and constricting, they are written and enacted in the spirit of the fundamental values and ancient teachings that govern our pilgrimage and which help to ensure a balance between our humanity and the regulations.

Channel helpfulness before the rules

My friend and co-author of the Enough book addresses a similar issue in her chapter “Enough with the Rules”. Jacquie has built her financial services business on the fundamental values of compassion, kindness and service. And whilst she always works within the rules of the New Zealand financial services regulator, she puts her principles first.

So, as she relates in her chapter, she asks herself, “What would be helpful here?” rather than “What are the rules/policy/procedure here?” This way, she has gained a reputation for being a partner for her clients rather than a product provider.

Don’t abandon your humanity.

I remember asking a wise and thoughtful friend how to avoid causing damage or offending others during life’s journey. He suggested that our humanity should be our guiding light. In his words, “Wrongdoing is the abandonment of our humanity.” There are occasions, I believe, where regulations do force the abandonment of our humanity.

As a changemaker and a person seeking to make a difference, you will find yourself in the rules/humanity dilemma on many occasions. So when it comes to the choice, here are four things to consider when the situation arises:

  1. Should I go with the spirit or the letter of the regulations?
  2. What are my fundamental values, and how can I apply them without breaking the rules?
  3. What will help here when the rules might hinder?
  4. Will the actions I propose damage my humanity?

These are relatively straightforward considerations. However, I was thrown a few years ago whilst travelling in Africa and told, “It is not compulsory, but you must do it!”. A slightly different take on the debate, I thought.

Photo attribution

Photo by Phil on Unsplash

Audio link


Australia and England’s international cricket incident explained:

Deedes, Jeremy. Enough: Unlock a Life of Abundance Starting Right Where You Are. Melbourne, The Right Company Press, 28 Oct. 2021.

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