Responsibility and Boundaries


Today’s world seems much bigger than it did in my childhood. Not everyone shares that opinion because the world today allows people anywhere in the world to see and talk to each other in real time, thus creating the illusion that the world is smaller.

Because of this new connection we share with people all over the world, we may find it hard to accept the reality that cultural differences, geographical distances, and the simple understanding of personal boundaries may limit the scope of our lives.

Recently, Mahsa Amini, a twenty-two-year-old Iranian woman held by the Iranian morality police, died in police custody. And yes, you read that correctly—the morality police! I would have laughed at the term if I had not known that such an organization exists and exerts great power over Iranian citizens who break the code of Sharia law, the required Islamic “path” (Sharia Law – Her refusal to wear her hijab in the prescribed manner resulted in her arrest and death.

Her death has inspired large, loud protests by Iranian women who have begun burning their hijabs and cutting their hair in public demonstrations. Generally speaking, non-Muslim Americans find Amini’s situation almost unbelievable. 

I cannot understand Sharia law’s rules for Muslim society, but I cannot do anything about it. It’s reach exceeds my power or influence; it is outside the boundaries of my life. I can, however, empathize with Iranian women who must endure its restrictions.

Another issue beyond my boundaries involves the unprovoked war Russia has unleashed on Ukraine. I stand amazed at President Zelensky’s courage, determination, and leadership as his people fight alongside him to preserve their freedom and their sovereignty. 

Ukraine’s situation has revealed to me an understanding of international relationships that I did not have before. Geography and ideology often define the complex treaties and alliances among the nations of the world. Primarily, world leaders hope for enough cooperation to prevent nuclear war that could make ideology irrelevant.

Sadly, I notice that several segments of American society have begun forming their own alliances within America’s own boundaries. Some groups believe their morals, family values, economic values, and religious doctrines should be the law of the land, the required “Christian path.” 

This idea seems to violate the original intentions of this country’s founders, who omitted the word “God” from the Constitution, that proposed a land of diversity that welcomed oppressed people from around the world. Isn’t it interesting how the Ten Commandments grew into 613 Jewish laws, the required “Jewish path,” by the time of Christ?

Many communities’ conservative families have begun a campaign to control the content of their libraries. Certain groups have declared some authors and titles inappropriate and want the books banned from their school and public libraries. Everyone has the right to believe in the appropriateness or inappropriateness of material but no one should dictate that decision to others.

Two books targeted by these would-be censors, “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and “To Kill a Mockingbird,” are American classics. The primary objection rests in the novels’ literal representations of their settings. The characters speak the vernacular of their day.

I understand the negative reaction to racist language, but both books actually teach the opposite of racism. Sometimes one must face and hear the truth to understand the reality of a situation. 

Removing offensive language from library shelves moves a society toward dangerous censorship like that China and Russia impose when the internet carries stories that portray human rights violations in their countries. Those governments arbitrarily block access to sites they do not want their citizens to see.

Evil does not go away if we just ignore it. It hides behind false facades that mislead gullible people. When we allow some people to persuade others by using half-truths or total lies, we open the door to despotism. 

If enough people fall prey to the gospel of fundamentalism in moral codes, a country can become like North Korea or Russia. As I have no power, influence, or voice in moral standards in other countries, I do have the freedom to speak about these issues in my own country.

Many Americans maintain an idealized vision of America’s history. For example, they refuse to accept that European pioneers dispossessed indigenous people to obtain the land we now call the United States.

Many Christians want their moral/religious views to become laws that govern everyone else. If we take away personal liberty (rights to choose medical procedures for ourselves, to love whom we choose, to identify as a gender different from the standard binary system), we assume responsibilities and cross personal boundaries that have nothing to do with us.

Some say they do not “approve” of someone else’s lifestyle. I question the right to approve or disapprove of the personal rights and liberties of other people. Though not my intention, some of my beliefs likely offend others. I simply try to allow others the right to their private lives just as I hope to retain the right to make decisions regarding my own.

The temptation to dictate morality can be great, but I try to avoid falling victim to it. Ellis Peters wrote a series of medieval mysteries that feature Brother Cadfael as the main character. Brother Cadfael, a monk in Shrewsbury Abbey, works quietly behind the scenes of his abbey to accomplish God’s will without infringing upon the personal rights of those with whom he works. 

In the third chronicle, entitled “One Corpse Too Many,” Brother Cadfael comforts Hugh Beringar as Beringar ponders his responsibility in the destinies of several other characters. Cadfael’s words, “You did the work that fell to you and did it well. God disposes all. From the highest to the lowest extreme of a man’s scope, wherever justice and retribution can reach him, so can grace.”

God alone has the right to assign our roles in our world. We may appreciate neither the distribution of gifts and talents nor their withholding; however, we are all responsible for how we manage what we have. My personal moral choices do not have to match the societal norms or become public law. We are not responsible for the morality of others, nor do we have the right to dictate their choices to them.

Nancy Patrick is a retired teacher who lives in Abilene and enjoys writing


  • Well said.


  • Sandy Parish-Tompkins

    WOW!! Talk about a thought-provoking article! That is a lot of stuff to process and I don’t know if my brain is smart enough to do it. This world has definitely changed from what it was when we were growing up.


  • You are very brave to be so very outspoken about your beliefs. I respect you for this. Our culture in my humble opinion ask the wrong questions. We ask if you believe in everyone having assault rifles, believing in the right to have an abortion, believing the right to have an homosexual lifestyle etc. Jesus tells us we will be known to the world as believers by our love. We love God first and then our neighbors. It’s simple to understand, but sometimes difficult to live one hundred percent of the time. Only by God’s grace can we follow his path of love. Everything else is , I believe, a distraction. The devil loves us to lose our focus. Thank you,Nancy, for your openness . Linda Chisholm


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