Do you recall neutralizing any guilt you might have felt for committing a criminal or illegal act? Did your neutralizations come before or after you committed the act in question?

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I have to preface by saying that I'm a rule-follower and try my best to uphold the laws of the land, which may be what you are struggling with as well. If you don't regularly participate in criminal (yikes!) activities, you probably are having a hard time even wrapping your brain around the idea.

So here's a law that I occasionally break: the speed limit.

Granted, sometimes I don't even realize I'm speeding and have actually gotten a ticket for just such an infraction. Years ago, I was going down a long hill and just didn't realize how much speed I'd picked up. But the kind officer sure did.

On another day, I was trying to get my daughter to an awards ceremony and was running behind. I was speeding. And another kind officer noticed my noncompliance with posted laws.

So sometimes I do make a conscious choice to ignore the speed limit. I would say that I neutralize that guilt before I even break the law almost every time with excuses like these:

  • I'll only drive a max of 7 miles per hour over the limit
  • The speed limit shouldn't be 35 on that road, anyway

And while these may be true, I am still making a choice to drive just a little over the legal limit and do put myself in danger of getting a ticket. (My older self has become increasingly practical about the minuscule amount of time speeding actually saves, so I am much less likely to speed these days and definitely not at speeds that would make it highly likely to get a ticket. I'd rather pay for fun things than speeding tickets.)

Here are some other commonly broken laws that I can think of that might help you consider ways you potentially break the law:

  • Using images from the internet without citing your source
  • Viewing movies that have been copied and not purchased
  • Listening to music when you have neither paid for a subscription nor purchased the song outright. (Did you know that the "Happy Birthday" song is copyrighted--which is why you rarely hear it sung on television during their celebrations?)
  • Meeting friends for poker tournaments or other games dependent on gambling--which is illegal in almost every state
  • Using your phone while driving. In some states, this includes using it when you're stopped at red lights
  • Sharing medication not prescribed to you

If you've engaged in any of these law-breaking activities, you probably talked yourself out of any guilt you might have experienced--especially if you engaged in the activity more than once. I can't speak to your personal experience, so you'll need to reflect and determine whether this absolution of guilt came before you participated or after everything was over.

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