“You do you” was the response to the question, “What do you think about a sixteen-year-old smoking pot?” “You do you” meaning that whatever a person does is OK as long as it doesn’t hurt that person or anyone else.
The setting for this discussion was a Christian Science Sunday School class. The topic? Moral values.
Moral values define our relationships with each other: how we treat each other, what standards we have for specific behaviors. It was a lively discussion that started with a class consensus that moral values are more or less irrelevant, provided your behavior isn’t detrimental to anyone, including you.
Is it ever OK to tell a lie?
Really? The teens took a closer look by exploring a variety of moral issues through the lens of the Bible along with Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy. What follows is our journey.
Is it ever OK to tell a lie? The vote was mostly no, but there was a holdout over telling little “white” lies.
The class found helpful guidance in Science and Health where Mary Baker Eddy writes, “Honesty is spiritual power” (p. 453). When we say “spiritual power,” what are we talking about? Spiritual power refers to the supreme power of good, the source of which is God—good itself. So you could say that when we’re honest, we’re actively in line with that divine power, which has a real payoff: reliable guidance, safety, better choices, and more productive relationships.
But Mrs. Eddy didn’t stop there. In the sentence that follows she added, “Dishonesty is human weakness, which forfeits divine help.” Since no one wants to be in a place where they feel cut off from divine help, the conclusion was that lying—even telling a little white lie—is never good, though being honest doesn’t have to mean being harsh; we can always find a loving way to speak truth.
What about cheating? The class agreed that it’s not OK to look at another’s test to get answers. But what about loaning your homework to a friend who didn’t have time to finish theirs? A nice thing to do? Maybe … but it’s still cheating. It isn’t honest to allow someone (a teacher) to think a person who turned in the homework actually did it, when they didn’t.
One synonym, or name, for God found in Science and Health is Principle, which refers to the spiritual laws that govern our existence. Principle is a wholly good, stabilizing presence we can turn to for direction when we’re faced with choices involving right and wrong. Living your life in accord with Principle would rule out cheating—even sharing a few homework answers with a friend.
Rather than just going along with what’s popular or commonly accepted, we need to apply a spiritual lens when evaluating behavior.
And that sixteen-year-old smoking pot? (Pot is legal in certain countries and some areas of the United States, but not for a sixteen-year-old.) Some arguments might be: “If it’s done at home and no one knows, what’s the difference?” or “As long as it isn’t smoked often, who cares?”
In addition to concerns about how smoking pot may affect the health of young people, another helpful point to consider is the concept of law. What is the point of human law when it functions as it should? One answer might be: To protect the individual and society. The class could see that if a person stays within the law, that person will have the protection of the law, whereas violating the law makes one vulnerable. And because it was clear that obeying the law is important, the class drew the conclusion that it’s not OK to disobey the law. (As for smoking pot in general, that’s a discussion for another class. In the meantime, you can read more on this topic here.)
Diving deeper into the concept of law, we talked about how state, city, and even school rules actually express aspects of the divine laws found in the Bible. Jesus specifically singled out two great commandments—another term for laws. These two commandments can be seen as the basis of all legitimate, beneficial law. The first is, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This commandment has to do with our relation to God. The second is, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37, 39, New King James Version). This is a rule about how to relate to people and can be seen as the basis for morals. By keeping us oriented toward a genuine love for God and each other, these commandments can help us make decisions and choose behaviors that are truly the most beneficial to our own and others’ lives.
So what about “You do you”? The students brought out that their perception of this statement was that it’s about not judging others. While we concluded it was right not to be judgmental, the new consensus was that we also don’t need to agree with behaviors that aren’t good. Rather than just going along with what’s popular or commonly accepted, we need to apply a spiritual lens when evaluating behavior. The reward is having safer, freer lives that always have the benefit of divine help.