Even very young children respond well to simple, logical answers that make sense to them, and they might keep asking until they get such an answer. ‘Because it’s a rule’, or the old favourite, ‘because I said so’, are not good enough answers.
Very often, the reason we find it so annoying is that we don’t know why. We may not have thought about it, or it was never explained to us. Much of what we do is a custom or tradition that has been handed down from generation to generation, or we just do it because it’s ‘the law’. Most customs and traditions probably started as a rule or law based on a good reason but that reason may no longer apply. Things change.
Wrongness is not about breaking a rule or breaking the law. Wrongness is about deliberately causing harm, failing to remedy harm, or allowing harm to continue. Rules and laws are – or should be - made to avoid or reduce harm occurring and, if that were the case, it would be easy to explain to kids why an action is wrong, simply by pointing out how it is unsafe or unfair. However, fairness depends on each individual point of view because it is the graduated grey area between the white of equality and the darkness of inequality.
Breaking an out-dated tradition or custom has no harmful effect on anyone or anything but may be dangerous because of the response from people who believe the custom or tradition is part of God’s law. Breaking an unjust law can be justified as righting a wrong but, again, it can result in a harmful response from those who benefit from the unjust law.
Traditions and customs are like age, gender, nationality, and club-membership; all are great for providing people with a sense of belonging. But all of these should be subject to the principle; ‘all people are equal’. For example, I am an accidental white, male, Australian, Christian, Catholic, but first and foremost I am human. Wrongness creeps in when differences between groups are used to judge one as being superior to the others.
Bob Myers, author of Travelling the Road of Peace and Happiness.