The purpose of having rules is to keep order in the entropic nature of a world always threatening to revert to chaos. Rules are generally written in a spirit of benevolence, and they usually represent a given set of virtues in order to aim for a higher good.
But there can come a point where the rules themselves end up undermining the very spirit and virtue the rule was made to exemplify in the first place. The rules of football were made in the spirit of fair play, but now it can be argued that the referees’ implementation of the rules is so pedantic and rigid that the ethos of the game is being lost.
Rule-breakers have also stood up against repressive laws in the name of morality. Rosa Parks inspired the civil rights movement in the US when she refused to give up her seat to a white man on a crowded bus in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955. She was tired of giving in to the demands of a system that was so demonstrably unfair, that she resorted to disobedience.
Jordan Peterson, in his book Beyond Order, recommends to follow the rules first and understand the spirit in which the rule was originally made. It is only then that we can ethically break the rule – by managing to combine the necessity to conform to the rules humbly as others do, but to use judgement and a guiding conscience to do what is right, even when the rules suggest otherwise.
Here’s a rule: Follow the rules, but shoulder the responsibility to make an exception to serve a higher good.