I cannot think of a culture in human history (before the present postmodern era) that did not value law, tradition, custom, authority, boundaries, and morality of some clear sort. These containers give us the necessary security, continuity, predictability, impulse control, and ego structure that we need, before the chaos of real life shows up. It is my studied opinion that healthily conservative people tend to grow up more naturally and more happily than those who receive only free-form “build it yourself” worldviews. This is the tragic blind spot of many liberals and free thinkers.

Here is my conviction: without law in some form, and also without butting up against that law, we cannot move forward easily and naturally. The rebellions of two-year-olds and teenagers are in our hardwiring, and we have to have something hard and half-good to rebel against. We need a worthy opponent against which we test our mettle. As Rilke put it, “When we are only victorious over small things, it leaves us feeling small.” Cultures which do not allow any questioning or rebelling might create order, but they pay a huge price for it in terms of inner development. Even the Amish have learned this, and allow their teens the rumspringa freedom and rebellion, so they can make a free choice to be Amish. And most do!

Perhaps no one has said it better than the Dalai Lama: “Learn and obey the rules very well, so you will know how to break them properly.” This also sums up Paul’s teaching about the law in Romans and Galatians!

Adapted from Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life,
pp. 25-26