We've all heard it. The famous words of the Wiccan Rede: "An' it harm none, do what ye will" - or some variation thereof. Whether you adhere to this tenent or not, no doubt someone has, at one point or another, expounded on the importance of following this rule.
I admit I follow it to an extent. I certainly believe the idea has value. For example, I use it on my kids (ages 7 and almost 4). Frequently. But exactly how far should one take it? How far is too far?
Do you let a madman attack you for fear of causing him harm by defending yourself? Would you allow an individual who threatens your child to just walk away because you don't want to hurt that person? Or, not quite so drastic, do you refrain from punishing your child for a transgression to avoid harming him or her?
This is why I much prefer this version I came across several years ago: "And it harm none, do as ye will; And it cause harm, do as ye must."
To me, this means that if an action I am considering doesn't cause harm to anyone in any foreseeable manner, I am free to proceed. If an action results in more good than harm, I may proceed cautiously. However, if an action would result in more harm than good, it's a bit trickier. How much is it worth it to me to pursue this course?
Let's return to the above scenarios.
#1) A madman is trying to attack you. Let's say you firmly believe in the rule of "harm none". So, do you let him attack without trying to defend yourself so that you don't cause harm? I guess you could. But look at it this way: If you don't defend yourself, thereby causing harm to the madman, you are still, in fact, causing harm - to yourself. In which case, following the tenent of "and it cause harm, do as ye must", you would defend yourself using only the force necessary, and no more, thereby preventing greater harm to yourself, and mitigating the harm to the madman.
#2) If you're a parent, I am positive your response to a threat to your child is the same as mine. There's no way someone threatening my kids is going to just "walk away". I will do whatever is necessary to protect my children, because, again, it would be causing a greater harm not to. Now, whether that means beating someone over the head with a bat, or simply reporting suspicious activity to the police will be determined by the exact situation. And I am not above using every bit of magic at my disposal to ensure their safety. I would not only focus on work to keep them safe, but I would actively use spellwork to discourage harm from coming to them; such as binding and reversing negativity.
#3) Do I discipline my kids? You bet I do. Do I punish them for things they do that are mean, against the rules or just plain dangerous? Yeppers. How do I justify this harming of my own children? By the simple fact that if they learn now to avoid dangerous, harmful behavior, I am in fact preventing greater harm in the future. Just today, my daughter (the almost 4yr old) insisted on hanging over the arm of the couch. While I'm sure I did it as a kid, as a mom this does not strike me as "safe behavior". So I told her, multiple times, to stop. She got hurt, more than once, by continuing to do so and either falling, or getting caught in the recliner that sits next to the couch. The final straw was when she fell over head-first, straight into the lamp, knocking it against the wall and busting the lightbulb. So she got in trouble for that. Now, she'll probably do it again a few more times, but eventually, hopefully, she will learn to avoid that, and similar behavior in the future, saving herself pain and other consequences. Sometimes just the pain of getting hurt when doing something they shouldn't is enough to teach the lesson; sometimes the lessons must be reinforced with discipline, punishment and appropriate consequences.
So, I guess what I'm trying to say is, just use a little common sense when applying this most commonly known Wiccan Rule.