How many times have we heard our parents tell us that? Being one of four siblings, my parents had that phrase on replay—constantly. When we were children, my brothers and I were always trying to boss each other around and get our own way. But, as we grew up, we learned to mind our own business and control our own behavior. We began to realize that we might not LIKE what the other one was doing, but that their behavior was not up to us to control. Each of my brothers and I matured into grown-ups who understand that we are responsible for our own actions and reactions to other people.

The news media as of late has been replete with stories of how some people are “triggered” by words and symbols and even articles of clothing worn by other people. And, it is conceivable that those who are “triggered” are genuinely having an emotional reaction to their surroundings

Humans are built to be relational, and part of relating is that we respond and react to those around us. Put two babies in a room together, if one of them starts crying, the other one will impulsively join in. But, as we mature, we learn that we can and must control our own responses to those around us. We can feel a “triggered” emotion without reacting to it, and certainly not by trying to control the people and things in our landscape to whom we are having an emotional reaction. 

For example, if I were terrified of flying and seeing airplanes flying over my head does that mean that I should try to make airplanes illegal? They make me uncomfortable, people get hurt and injured in airplane accidents—I shouldn’t have to be made uncomfortable by seeing these things flying over my head…right?! Something should be done about these airplanes! Right?! 

Of course not. My fears, my phobias, and my emotional reactions are MINE to deal with. It is MY responsibility to learn how to interact with the rest of the world and control my emotional responses through coping skills. I cannot expect the rest of the world to conform to what makes me feel comfortable. I have to learn to “keep my hands to myself.” 

A more realistic example of how this scenario tends to play out is with firearms and our Second Amendment Constitutional Right to exercise our God-given Right to self-defense. Some people are made uncomfortable by the fact that I own firearms, even though I am a responsibly armed and trained citizen. They cite times when firearms have been improperly used by others to harm and murder our fellow men and women. They feel deeply that guns are bad, ignoring the obvious fact that millions of times each year guns are used to protect and save lives. The truth is that people who don’t “keep their hands to themselves” hurt other people, and guns are merely one of any number of tools used to maim and murder innocents. 

Regardless, there are many who profess that the world would be a better place if everyone would simply listen to their “common sense” ideas of making these tools disappear. However, if those people can take from me my firearms and my right to own those tools that makes ME feel transgressed and unsafe. Being deprived of my Second Amendment rights makes me deeply uncomfortable. Are my feelings less important than those of other people?

So, where does that leave us? If one person gets their way, the other is left feeling discomfort. What are we to do about that? Our Founding Fathers and Mothers created a solution. In fact, they believed so strongly in the principle of “keeping one’s hands to oneself” that they put everything on the line and fought, bled, starved, and died in order to have the opportunity to write a few documents about this very issue. 

The Declaration of Independence was their instruction to the English Monarchy and Army to keep their hands to themselves. It was a boundary-setting written pronouncement of autonomy. It declared where the English Government ends and where the United States Government begins. The Founders followed that up with a missive called the Constitution of the United States, which set the rules for how our own government would behave. And the ultimate “keep your hands to yourself” document is the Bill of Rights. 

The Bill of Rights tells our own United States Government what it can NOT do in the personal lives and with the personal possessions of We the People—including our “arms” (guns, knives, swords, bows and arrows, etc.) which free citizens have the right to keep and bear, which means to own and carry. And our Founders, realizing how important firearms are to personal safety and security, included the Second Amendment which codified those inherent rights, and added a clause that you will find nowhere else in our Founding Documents. They wrote, “shall not be infringed.” 

It was an emphatic punctuation declaring that no matter what, this right stands unfettered by any other law, decree, or governmental regulation. According to the National Archives website, “(The Bill of Rights) spells out Americans’ rights in relation to their government. It guarantees civil rights and liberties to the individual—like freedom of speech, press, and religion. It sets rules for due process of law and reserves all powers not delegated to the Federal Government to the people or the States.”

Part of being a grown-up is knowing that my rights end where my brothers’ and my neighbors’ begin. Keep your hands to yourself. These are timeless values and, in a way, our Founding Fathers and Mothers are continuing to parent each new generation in exactly that wise admonition nearly 300 years after they secured these rights for their own lives.