You Can Be Free, or Obedient, but Not Both

Obedient people are dangerous people. And while that seems odd, since we’re taught from childhood that obedience is good, and good people are obedient, it’s because their loyalty lies not with human ties or their close relationships with other people. Their allegiance is pledged to authority, be that the state or management, government, experts, “science,” or whoever has the power to dictate rules and mandates.

Most of us, in our relationship with other people, are not authority figures. We are friends, co-workers, relatives, acquaintances, operating on terms of equality with one another. If we are sensible, we treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves, and sincerely hope that others will return the favor.

river country landscape rural blue meadows fields painting art peaceful calm
Unlike canals, rivers run free, which means that, depending upon how they flow, they change the landscape around them. Canals, however, are boxed in, controlled, and channeled, and while this is useful for irrigation, it’s not a good way to live as human beings. Be a river. Where the River Bends, art print by Steve Henderson. Click on the image to be taken to the purchase page.

But obedient people do not operate this way. Not only are they submissive to those they deem above them, they push their peers – friends, co-workers, relatives, acquaintances – into this yoke as well (“We’re all in this together,” right?). Consequentially, to the obedient, it is acceptable to tattle, to anonymously say something when they see something, to snitch for the betterment of society. That’s what authority tells them to do.

There is a reason why no one likes the teacher’s pet. There is a reason why adults frown when children tattle, even when it seems like they have something to tattle about. Surely, we think, there is a better way to bring about justice than gleefully getting others in trouble.

And while there is little we can do with extreme obedient people other than to be aware and wary of them, there is much we can do in ourselves: we can choose to be decent people, loyal to those we love and who love and trust us, upright, forthright, honorable in our dealings with one another. That’s how free people live.

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes.  I incorporate the artwork of my husband, Steve Henderson, with thoughts on truth, goodness, life, light, and hope. Click on the image in the article to purchase prints or products featuring the artwork. Find all of Steve’s prints at

Posts complementing this one are

Obedience Is Not a Virtue

Whom Do We Trust?

Explore a World without Fences

About This Woman Writes

Carolyn Henderson is the marketing manager of Steve Henderson Fine Art. She writes about life, art, and the art of life.
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