Punishment vs Consequence

Published February 24, 2016 by theimside

“While we are free to choose our actions, we are not free to choose the consequences of our actions.” – Stephen R. Covey 

Some people make your life more difficult simply because they disagree with something you do or something you’ve said.

I want to talk about this. Because it seems people misunderstand what a consequence really is. And when they choose to act in ways that make your life more difficult (particularly people in positions of power) they will say it is a consequence of your actions – as if it was inevitable. Is it really inevitable to not think outside your own world view and take part in mature conversation to see another person’s world view?

Society has mistaken consequence for punishment. And this is why I don’t respect the law. The laws are punishments. The laws are not consequences. Because laws can be changed. Consequences can’t be changed.

A consequence is inevitable, unchanging. A punishment is optional, and context-sensitive.

When a child makes a parent angry via disagreement, the parent will punish the child, and make sure to point out “your actions have consequences, go to your room!” The child may not know any better, but the parent does. It’s easier to punish the child rather than teach the child.

When a child is learning and growing, they have a lot of questions and are learning to be independent. Which is important, unless the parent wants to teach the child how to be dependent on others. A parent should reward the child with an honest answer when questioned. Same goes for the student / teacher relationship.

But all too often, parents and teachers punish kids for questioning the brains of the past.

When a child asks why (consequence) the parent responds “because I said so” which is a punishment. Punishments are lazy. Punishment is a choice. Punishment is not a consequence of actions.

The dinosaurs of our society honestly believe that punishment equates to consequence. They don’t realize it’s easier to punish someone for a “crime” rather than try to understand that person’s situation, or the context of what they say and do. They’d sooner punish them than help them out of that situation. My last employer is a fine example of this. But I won’t go into that.

A consequence is inevitable. If you don’t know how to swim, the consequence is drowning. If you take too many drugs, you will overdose. These are consequences.

A punishment is something that decidedly makes another person’s life more difficult, for reasons beyond the scope of what “consequence” really is. If you smoke weed, you won’t be able to pass a drug test and get a job. If you get caught stealing, you go to jail. Punishment is often associated with “getting caught” which also threatens people’s independence. It turns the world of cause-and-effect into hide-and-seek. And the people who are best at hiding get away with their crimes and never see punishment. Essentially, the people who are honest and out in the open with their beliefs have to deal with punishment, which is of course disguised as “consequence.”

We need to think and act outside the script of “cause and effect” when it comes to social interaction. It is 2016 + all those billions of years of evolution we don’t count. We are more intelligent and complex than that. The receptive, conservative party can not continue to punish others for disagreements that arise, or observing actions that they don’t like – especially when it is not causing anyone direct harm.

I’m not advocating that punishments shouldn’t be given to those who kill, rape, steal, manipulate, or torture. I’m saying punishment is not the same thing as consequence. Simple as that. And when someone suffers inevitable consequences, we as a society need to be there for that person to help them recover, learn, grow, and be a better person. Not punish them. We can not continue punishing truly good, loyal people at times when they need help and support the most. Because the real consequence of laying down the hammer too many times is rewarding criminal intelligence and punishing authenticity.

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