As a reminder, here are the rules of Wiccan ethics:
As my religion is a part of my everyday life, so it colors my everyday ethics. These rules and laws do not apply solely to magick; they are facts of life, as I see it, and they apply every day.
As I mentioned before, this is a very hard rule to put into practice. Nobody can do it perfectly. “Harm none” is an ideal to strive for, not a make-or-break rule for perfectionists. It is a caution to consider all the consequences of my actions, and make sure those consequences involve no more harm than absolutely necessary. If a planned action will cause harm, I will seek out alternatives and try to find one that causes none, or less. Sometimes this means weighing different kinds of harm.
In parenting my children, this rule applies. I teach my children to avoid physical conflict, to think before they speak so as not to hurt the feelings of others. (I also teach my children never to initiate violence, but to defend themselves if they are attacked rather than passively allow greater harm to themselves.) I do not spank my children, preferring the alternatives of incentive, discussion, and understanding whenever possible. I do not withhold food, but I do not cook special meals for picky eaters, feeling that the possible “harm” of a hungry child is less than the “harm” of the hassle of cooking multiple meals and especially the long-term “harm” of teaching that child that all their demands can be so easily met. I allow my kids to be free-range as much as possible, believing that the potential for harm caused by injury is far less than the harm of a insular, sedentary lifestyle without knowledge of how to deal with the world, or of how to manage risk and reward.
In managing my daily affairs, I also consider this rule. I weigh the harm of my constant pain and how it affects my ability to function and my temper, against the harm of the chores and lessons that may go undone while I get in my exercise and meditation. I weigh the harm of eating processed or GMO food, against the harm of having an unmanageably large grocery budget, or of spending time on homesteading instead of on self-care or homeschooling. I weigh the harm of having less income against the harm of the stress of working outside the home. Many of my choices are these types of either/or choices, where I would rather be able to take both paths but I just can’t. I don’t always think of things in term of harm. In fact, I prefer to think of the positives. In the end, though, it comes down to maximizing the positive and minimizing the negative.
This rule also applies just as much to everyday affairs as to magickal ones. There are other cultural concepts that are similar. The Golden Rule, “you reap what you sow”, karma, etc., all operate on the same general principle of return. This is an important second leg of consideration in all actions.
It works with children. If I am grumpy, if I am short-tempered, if I am whiny, if I yell and complain, that is exactly what I will get back from them. (Except I will get it times six, instead of times three. That doesn’t seem fair…) If I maintain an even temper, if I take care of myself so that I can take care of them, if I get my things done instead of putting them off, then that is what I will see in my children. Having children can be a huge, obvious example of how this rule works, because they reflect the adults around them so much. (Having an autistic mimic only magnifies the results!)
It works with life outside the home, as well, although sometimes the effects are more subtle. If I make the effort to help others, I will be more likely to find help when I need it. If I am friendly to others, I will find more friendliness directed to me. If I put out negativity, it will act negatively and repel others. Positive actions will be more likely to bring positive results; negative actions will bring negative results. Careful driving will be more likely to get me there safely than reckless driving. Showing up on time will encourage others to do likewise, while perpetual lateness will encourage the same.
This is possibly the most overlooked rule when applied to daily life, but it does need to be applied. It is wrong to force another to bend to my will. It is hard to remember this when dealing with children, since they need more direction and learning, but it is still more important to explain and teach and lead by example than to force. I try to avoid that kind of force. I don’t expect my children to submit to my will, I expect them to learn to be helpful and independent.
I will not force other adults to bend to my will, either. I will try to share knowledge when I can, I can offer advice and support, but I will not make love and friendship contingent on somebody else complying with what I believe is right behavior. I may not agree with somebody’s life choices, but I don’t have the right to change them. If I don’t agree with the direction a group is taking, I can try to explain my position, but then it is up to the group whether or not to make the change. I can always leave if my disagreement is strong enough, but even if I am in charge, I cannot force the group to bend to my will.
Next up: a still broader scope for the same ethics.