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Discipline vs. Punishment

I did not fully appreciate the difference between punishment and discipline until I met and worked with a wonderful man.

I had been the squadron Legal Officer for almost 2 years when he arrived. He joined as the new Executive Officer which also meant he had already been chosen to become our next Commanding Officer.

While I say that he was a great man based on my years of both working for and flying with him, others far more important than I also thought highly of him. So highly that he was later chosen as the Navy's CNO (Chief of Naval Operations), the highest position in the Navy.

He never said these words, but he showed me the enormous gap between these two words by the way he handled people.

Punishment is a consequence of behavior which focuses on "justice" for a "past" event. It focuses on 'being fair', on 'revenge' and 'getting even'. No, not always, but I have come to believe it is the first step down that path, and if you continue, you have a difficult time coming back.

Discipline is a consequence of behavior which focuses on "preparing" for "future" events. It focuses on 'training', 'learning' and 'motivating' people to make better choices in the future and thus not repeating the undesired behavior.

One looks forward, the other looks backward. One seeks revenge, the other seeks maturity. One accuses and condemns, the other nurtures and supports. One is geared towards vengeance, the other is geared towards restoration. One is based on the emotional past, the other is based on reasonable future.

Another analogy would be the gardening one. Either you are "pruning" a plant, so that it will grow better, or you are "removing" a plant to improve the garden. In either case, the garden is better off than it was before.

So, why do YOU experience consequences in your life. Why do YOU want others to have society hand out consequences to others? Do you seek revenge on someone? Do they deserve punishment for what they did to you? It could be. I certainly have felt that way several times in my own life, and found it easy to agree with others about events in their life.

While I can not change the past, I can change the future. I prefer to look at things in a way that I can make a positive contribution to those around me. I want them to do the same.

By the way, as I understand God, God NEVER punishes His children, yet He often disciplines them. He gave them consequences for what they had done to Him, but always looking at their children and grand-children. He wanted every generation and future generation to understand. He looked forward then, as He does now.

Besides, without God's correction in my life, whether you call it punishment or discipline, I am unable to live a Godly life. I need God to help me.