Where I work we have annual themes to inspire us and encourage team-building.
Our current them is “No excuses.” This is part of the No Excuses University program meant to encourage all children to prepare for higher education…a worthy goal. To go along with the theme there are “0 excuse limit” signs posted at our parking lot entrances.
Every time I pass one of those signs, it reminds me of just where such well-meaning slogans can lead. I think, for example, of the excesses of the Zero Tolerance policies in many of our public schools.
We’ve all read about insane incidents such as the kindergartener suspended for biting his PopTart into the shape of a pistol or little children being accused of sexual harassment before they are even aware of their own sexuality.
While the No Excuses-Zero Tolerance-Failure-is-not-an-option folks have the best of intentions or are trying to inspire higher achievement, if their philosophies aren’t tempered with a generous dose of common sense and compassion they do more harm than good.
Last November the authorities in Sweden mandated that Icehotel, in the town of Jukkasjärvi, install fire alarms just like any other hotel. This, in spite of the fact the ice hotel, as the name implies, is constructed completely of ice. The tourist attraction is constructed newly each year and only the bedding is not made of frozen water. It would seem logical to most people, that should the reindeer skin blankets, thermal sleeping bags or pillows somehow catch fire, the melting ice would be sufficient to put out the flames. The Swedish officials, however, insist on fire alarms, as well as a sprinkler system, adding to the costs, if not the safety of the guests.
This illustrates the dangers of blind legalism within any system.
When questioned about the Sabbath rules, Christ admonished the Pharisees by reminding them that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath: the rules were made for man’s benefit, not as a tool for his subjugation.
It is tempting for officials…in business organizations, governments, schools, or churches…to forget the rules they are in a position to enforce were enacted for the benefit of the people.
When too-strict adherence to those laws begins to serve only the people enforcing them, it is time to re-evaluate those laws, injecting compassion and common sense into the mix.