Live and Let Live as
an Etiquette-ful Philosophy

Riding Scooter and Walking

“Live and let live” is a phrase found in “The Ancient Law-Merchant,” a Dutch commercial law collection complied in 1622.  The code of law was avowed by medieval merchants to govern trade between countries.  In 1678 John Ray published “A Compleat Collection of English Proverbs,” which also included the phrase in this work known as part of the knowledge base of civilization.

Every day we try to live realistically and optimistically, showing up recognizably respectful throughout all situations.  The idiom “live and let live” summarizes the idea that we tolerate the opinions and behaviors of others, and we hope that they will similarly tolerate ours.

Respecting Boundaries

When we live etiquette-fully, we promote respect and other-regardfulness.  Learning and practicing etiquette guidelines we find that conflicts and disagreements are minimalized as others’ rights and boundaries are held sacred.  The ideal of living in a civil society becomes more real.

Embracing the philosophy means that a person accepts the differences of others without trying to change them, but it does not necessarily mean that you accept or condone the differences.  It also implies the recognition of the foolishness of wasting your own precious time by telling others how to live.

When Not to Live and Let Live

But there are places and situations where “live and let live” might not be appropriate.

  • If a person’s actions are bringing harm to themselves and others, intervention may be needed in order to protect everyone’s safety or well-being.
  • When an individual’s personal space has been violated and discomfort results, the need arises to assert and communicate your concerns respectfully.
  • “Live and let live” does not release individuals of responsibility for their actions. Personal accountability is paramount.

As a guiding philosophy for peaceful interactions with others, “live and let live” is always properly etiquette-ful, which will be situational, contextual, and relational and within the context of overarching ethical standards.

Whenever we observe the absence of regard—when others demonstrate disrespectful, inappropriate or careless behaviors—does this give privilege to correct their behavior? 
This brings us to another idiom that applies.

Mind Your Own Business

When you mind your own business, you take care of your responsibilities and don’t interfere in the responsibilities of other people.  However, if you are a parent, teacher, manager, or employer, you have supervisory and educational roles to play. But like “live and let live,” it is important to be clear on the boundaries for correction. And when in doubt, it’s wise to recall that etiquette errs on the side of no.

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