Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Can You Punish AND Forgive?

Somehow I always had the idea that forgiveness meant that you wouldn't be punished.  "I forgive you" meant that you wouldn't have to stay after school, or wouldn't have to pay for the broken window, or wouldn't have to go to jail.

I don't think I'm the only one with that idea.

After all, look at the judicial system.  Listen to the media.  The criminal is really really sorry for what he did.  Because he's sorry, that means he should be forgiven.  And of course, "forgiveness" means that he won't have to be incarcerated.  Right?  Wrong.

We tend to do the same thing with kids.  How often have you heard parents say, "But I can't spank him now.  He said he was sorry, and I forgave him!" 

First problem with that is that you'll raise a brat who learns to lie about Being Sorry. 

Second problem is that a kid learns that punishment means he's not forgiven.  Oooh.  Ick.  Do we want to teach that lesson?  Heck, no.  But when we [as a society or as parents or as teachers] do refrain from punishing a kid who's truly sorry, what happens to that same kid when punishments come later, at another time?  Does that mean Daddy doesn't forgive me this time? 

And worse, do we conclude that when bad stuff happens, it means that God doesn't forgive?

1 comment:

  1. I have never thought that forgiveness meant that there was no punishment. Even as a child, the punishment was a natural consequence of my action. If I broke a window, why would my parents have to pay for a new one. They didn't break the window. I realized that my parents forgave my window breaking, but that as part of my contrition, I would have to do my best to fix the problem.

    I really enjoyed your thoughts and will be doing much contemplating on this.