Why Have A Code of Conduct?
Or: Why Make My Own Code?
Copyright © 2013, 2017 by Wil C. Fry. All Rights Reserved.
Published 2013.04.19, Updated 2017.09.02
Everyone Has A Code Of Conduct
Regardless of whether they realize or admit it, everyone already lives by a code.
It’s either the ethics and guidelines passed down from their parents, something bludgeoned into them by a religious sect, a set of government restrictions, or something they came up with on their own. Even the rejection of other codes is in itself a de facto code for living.
At some point in the late 1990s, I realized that I wasn’t living any longer by the old codes with which I’d been raised. I didn’t believe them anymore and had shifted into something less conscious. I decided I’d be better off making a set of rules for myself, something concrete that could guide my life. So I wrote 10 Axioms That Shall Direct Me. It soon became obvious that those rules didn’t cover every situation.
Additionally, those “Axioms” (not a correct use of the term, I now realize) are clearly the product of a hurt and defensive person. They’re isolationist in nature and unhelpful when living in a crowded society.
For that matter, it’s easy to think of situations in which various axioms would contradict one another, with no overriding rule to decide which is superior.
Without realizing it, my code for life had shifted again. I was 40 years old when I set about to write my new code. This time, the goal was to cover every situation with overriding tenets. Additionally, I wanted it to be a code that anyone could adopt and so become a better member of society.
Considering Old Commandments
It was tempting to begin by copying existing sets of rules, and then just tweak them for my purpose. But that soon revealed many flaws.
For example, take the “Ten Commandments” of the Christian faith. The first four aren’t codes for living at all, and in real life have caused more confusion and consternation than they’re worth. The last six could be covered by two words: “Be nice”. (And I later realized that there weren’t only ten commandments, but rather hundreds, written on the stone tablets.)
As soon as I realized that, I adopted “Be nice” as the first tenet of my new code. I quickly changed it to “Be kind” because of the connotation difference (“niceness” generally applies only to the actions, whereas “kindness” covers the attitude as well). Not only does that cover the last six of the “Ten Commandments”, but quite a few government laws. Stealing, vandalism, rape, murder, arson, driving unsafely, etc., are all examples of being unkind. The rest of the list built from there.
Answer The Question Already
But really, why did I go through this trouble? Most people seem to get along all right without making their own list of rules, right? That’s just it. I don’t think most people are getting along all right. A lot of them seem to be drifting aimlessly, as I did for years. Some keep turning back to religion’s rules, but fall away when they’re overcome by guilt — because they can’t (or won’t) live up to some of those rules. Or they don’t understand those rules.
So I made a code that: (1) isn’t difficult to understand, (2) isn’t hard to follow — it just takes practice, (3) matches up with what I believe is right, (4) would work for society at large, (5) unlike many codes in use today it doesn’t involve hurting or making outcasts of huge numbers of people, and (6) has an end goal of satisfaction or happiness.
The new code I wrote in late 2012 and early 2013 included six tenets. The goal was to “be happy”, which I listed as the sixth tenet (the others were be kind, be responsible, be moderate, be learned, be decisive).
I soon discovered issues with this code. (1) No easy acronym sprang to mind — for ease of remembering the points. (2) The goal felt hollow and selfish. (3) Some of the tenets should have been included in the first — “be kind”. So in 2014 and 2015, I tweaked the wording, and removed the sixth tenet, leaving only five (here is the latest example of what that code looked like).
In 2017, I removed “moderate” and “decisive”, and rolled “responsible” into the first and main tenet. I added “train” as the new third tenet, leaving me with a much-simplified and much-improved code. There are now only three tenets, and they make an easy acronym to recall: “K.I.T.”
Frequently Asked Questions
❂ Are you trying to start a cult or religion?
No. It’s quite the opposite. I made this code for myself. I’m not encouraging anyone else to adopt it (though I believe they’d be happier if they did). I don’t want followers. That’s not kind (see tenet #1).
❂ Are you saying religions aren’t good enough for you?
Religion is (mostly) irrelevant to this code. My code’s tenets cover most of the general rules for living of most religions, except mine is more sensible and relevant for me. Most religious people could adopt this code without compromising their faith.
❂ Some religions encourage oppression, social inequality, or actual harm. What about them?
They’re not compatible with my code if they can’t follow the “be kind” rule. Remember, there’s never a reason to be unkind.